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Optical communication plays a significant and increasing role in our society. The public demand for higher network speed requires an optical backbone network with larger capacity. Accompanying high transmission-rate optical communications system are severe technical specifications for optical devices and systems. Many popular optical devices could be represented with a digital filter model as described in this article. Use of well-developed signal processing techniques and algorithms to design these optical devices is a wise use of existing technology. The wavelength division multiplexing (WDM) system, which is the dominating optical communication system, is introduced in this article. Three signal processing application examples for optical communications are presented: optical wavelength interleaver, an all-pass filter for chromatic dispersion compensation, and an electronic equalizer. As demonstrated in this article, signal processing could play an important role in the development of advanced optical communication systems. However, as demonstrated in the case of an electronic equalizer, some optical system characteristics may require special attention if signal processing techniques are to be applied successfully. Therefore, interdisciplinary cooperation between researchers in optics and signal processing will be crucial for optical communications to fully benefit from signal processing.