Is PON the future of cabled broadband networks?

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PON (Passive Optical Networks) can be considered the new standard for access network infrastructures when delivering internet to the user. With the increasing demand for high-definition video streaming, online gaming, cloud services, and other data-intensive applications, they became the go-to technology for many ISPS.

PONs utilize fibre optic cables, which offer significant advantages over traditional copper cables, such as higher bandwidth, immunity to electromagnetic interference, and the ability to transmit data over longer distances. Also taking advantage of passive optical splitters to divide the signal between multiple users, which reduces the network CAPEX. This division is only possible because of the equipment’s high sensitivity of the sensors that can establish a connection even with high losses throughout the network.

Its popularity can be attribute due its high-speed data transmission, cost-effectiveness, scalability, security, and other advantages. PON protocols allows fast internet connections, as they can deliver symmetrical or asymmetrical speeds, making them suitable for both residential and business applications.

Its architecture is cost efficient in terms of deployment and maintenance since they require less active equipment and power consumption compared to traditional copper-based networks making its scalability easier as well. Distance is another strength as this network can cover long distances, often up to 20 km or more, without significant signal degradation. This makes them suitable for serving both urban and rural areas.

As internet traffic continues to grow, ISPs will invest in improving and optimizing their infrastructure to maintain a reliable and consistent service. This may involve replacing older equipment, implementing better network management systems, and reducing network congestion.

For those already using PON this change might be easier, as PON protocols are adaptable to evolving technologies, they can be upgraded to support higher data rates and improved efficiency without requiring major infrastructure changes. The two main protocols, EPON (Ethernet PON) and GPON (Gigabit PON), already have their evolutions with 10G EPON and XGS-PON providing 10Gb of bandwidth using the exact same infrastructure of its older versions.

10G PON networks are already being deployed in high-density cities, coexisting in the same infrastructure as the traditional PON, these installations are essential to broaden the customer base of ISPs so their network can meet with the multi-giga requirement from business and bandwidth savvy clients.

Although 10G networks might be able to supply enough bandwidth for residential customers and small businesses for the years to come, 25G, 50G PON networks are close by, focusing on being backwards compatible with the current infrastructure, and broadening the application scope of this network.

With new protocols versions the improvements are not only regarding bandwidth but also the latency, security, and the ability to virtualize networks. With these improvements PON takes a step forward into the network convergence, allowing the current infrastructure to be used not only for home and business internet access, but also for many other applications as 5G xHauls, IOT, Smart cities and time sensitive cloud-based applications.

As seen PON technology has been largely deployed and continues to grow, with each new protocol its potential keeps expanding. Its main advantage is ensuring backwards compatibility enabling companies to take a step-by-step upgrade to their network and so far, it seems that the technology is here to stay.

To take advantage of the scalable network upgrades it is necessary to have a high-quality passive infrastructure, with high performing fibres, cables, splice closures and splitters. Furukawa Electric’s solutions were designed to offer high reliability thus reducing operating costs and increasing profit margins as we offer communication networks combined in modern infrastructure solutions, meeting market trends with a diversified PON portfolio.