PON is the cure for last-mile bandwidth bottlenecks

Two industry insiders debate the benefits of passive optical networking vs. Active Ethernet.

Optical Solutions' John Griffin believes that PON is the cure for bottlenecks in last-mile bandwidth.

Passive optical networking, specifically Gigabit PON, already is proving to be the cure for last-mile bandwidth bottlenecks. Service providers are in a race to deliver high-speed, triple-play services through fiber-to-the-premises architectures. In fact, most major telecom providers have committed to FTTP - and their technology of choice for the access portion of the network is PON.

Competing technologies, such as Active Ethernet, simply don't fit the access world. A point-to-point architecture isn't the most cost-effective, interoperable, scalable and manageable way to get multiple services to a large number of geographically diverse users.


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Standards-based GPON, on the other hand, fits perfectly with the business model most carriers have planned for providing multiple services to multiple customers. With PON, the service provider lowers the cost for high-speed, high-bandwidth services by using a shared optical infrastructure. Each service - voice, video and high-speed data - has unique performance characteristics that require different bandwidth allocations and capabilities. While this could pose significant challenges to competing technologies, a GPON system is designed to meet the diverse QoS needs of current and future service offerings.

The use of fiber cable has continued to migrate from large points of aggregated bandwidth, such as large businesses and single points-of-presence, to small businesses and residential consumers. The challenge today is in transporting smaller amounts of bandwidth from a large number of customers back to a centralized point. The beauty of PON is its inherent point-to-multipoint architecture, which easily aggregates multiple customers back to the central office environment, much the same way utility companies provide shared services among many users.

PON provides extensive benefits to service providers. First, it dramatically lowers operations costs by eliminating expensive electronic elements from the outside plant portion of the network. It further lowers cost by spreading the expense of high-powered, long-distance optics across a number of users by leveraging its point-to-multipoint distribution architecture. The GPON standard also enables scalability as bandwidth demands continue to increase for voice, video and data services. Service provisioning costs are reduced, longer reach is achieved, and minimal fiber is required.

Numerous carriers have adopted and implemented PON, specifically GPON, as their "competitive edge" in bringing triple-play services to premises customers. Most of the RBOCs have announced plans to bring high-bandwidth voice, video and data services to hundreds of thousands of residential and small-business customers - and already have decided to build FTTP networks based solely on PON in the outside plant.

By winning the backing of the RBOCs by providing benefits in every major area - cost, scalability, interoperability, long reach, reliability and manageability - standards-based PON is poised to dominate the access world and break the last-mile bandwidth bottleneck once and for all.

Griffin is executive vice president of Optical Solutions, a vendor of FTTP technologies. He can be reached at jgriffin@opticalsolutions.com.

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