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G.fast, GPON & the Future of Gigabit Services

Danny Dicks
Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
Danny Dicks
6/20/2017
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On June 13, 2017, the first six G.fast certified products were announced by the Broadband Forum and the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL). On the same day, the Broadband Forum also announced the creation of the G.fast Council to become "the center of expertise in G.fast to show how G.fast fits into the bigger broadband picture."

The Broadband Forum is pretty technology agnostic: It also set up the NG-PON2 Council to speed deployment of the fiber technology, so it has eggs in multiple baskets. This reflects the position of most -- though not all -- of the leading vendors of fixed access equipment profiled in Heavy Reading's report FTTx: The State of the Market. Indeed, four of the six vendors whose products have achieved G.fast interoperability certification (ARRIS, Calix, Huawei and Nokia) are featured in the report, which focuses on complete access solutions; the other two vendors with G.fast certification provide customer premises equipment (CPE) only (Technicolor) or chipsets and modules (Metanoia).

The appearance of interoperable G.fast products is significant, though, in the fixed access industry. Research for our report found many vendors backing the technology as a valuable addition to the portfolio -- with the potential to deliver gigabit access services cost effectively in many cases. But passive optical network (PON) technology isn’t going away in the access market any time soon.

While G.fast is developing very quickly and commercial services have been launched (for instance, by Swisscom in October 2016), it requires fiber to be pulled close to the user if gigabit speeds are to be achieved (certainly to within 100 m, even in lab tests). PON technologies can be used in fiber-to-the-curb/building (FTTC/B) deployments to backhaul G.fast, as well as for delivering fiber into the home. We are seeing the beginning of deployments of the faster PON technologies XGS-PON and TWDM-PON (NG-PON2) for business services and for residential apartments buildings in the US, Australia and South Korea, for instance.

This commercial activity shows that the fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) market is starting a transition -- from technologies designed to deliver 1 Gbit/s to 10 Gbit/s and beyond. While there is plenty of life in gigabit PON (GPON), Ethernet PON (EPON) and their 10G versions, operators are considering investing in technologies that can support multiple wavelengths so they can consolidate backhaul networks for consumer, business and mobile services. Business use will dominate 10Gbit/s services, taking advantage of new symmetric technologies, and mobile backhaul and fronthaul markets will swiftly emerge as Long Term Evolution (LTE)-Advanced Pro and 5G deployment gathers momentum and networks are densified with small cells: 5G will need 10Gbit/s PON for backhaul aggregation -- and G.fast won’t be enough here.

FTTx: The State of the Market examines the evolution of PON technologies, reviews the key technologies for FTTH, FTTB and FTTC, considers the state of advancement beyond gigabit networks into multi-gigabit deployments, and compares the positioning of leading fiber-to-the-anything (FTTx) technology vendors. It looks at the relationship between fiber and copper, and considers how fiber and wireless will interact as 5G technologies come on stream.

— Danny Dicks, Contributing Analyst, Heavy Reading

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