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Verizon Proves NG-PON2 Interoperability

Mari Silbey

Verizon is pressing its case for NG-PON2 as the next upgrade in passive optical networking technology. The service provider says it has now demonstrated what it believes is the first successful NG-PON2 interoperability test showing equipment from different vendors working in concert on each end of a single fiber.

In current PON deployments, operators have to use the same company for both optical line terminals (OLTs), the termination point on the service provider side, and optical network terminals (ONTs), the termination point at the end user location. Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) is determined to change that paradigm and says it will publish the open OMCI specifications that define its new OLT-to-ONT interface with the industry at large in the coming months.

"We would like NG-PON2 to be the first PON system which is interoperable from day one, and that's very important for us," Verizon's lead engineer on the trial, Dr. Denis Khotimsky, tells Light Reading.

Unlike when the telco upgraded from BPON to GPON more than a decade ago, Verizon is hoping to create a more flexible ecosystem of vendors for the migration to NG-PON2. The company's first interop test included Adtran Inc. (Nasdaq: ADTN), Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM), Cortina Access and Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) (in partnership with Calix Inc. (NYSE: CALX)). However, if Verizon can ultimately depend on interoperable gear from a wider group of vendors, it may be able to exert pricing pressure more effectively and help drive the cost of NG-PON2 deployments down.

For now, Verizon isn't willing to share if it's working with other companies on NG-PON2 in addition to those listed in the trial. Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) would be an obvious bet as an additional equipment partner, but so far the Finnish vendor has been left out in the cold. (See Verizon Readies Landmark NG-PON2 Trial.)

The rollout of gigabit broadband access networks is spreading. For more, check out our dedicated Gigabit/Broadband content channel here on Light Reading.

The move to NG-PON2 is important for several reasons. It increases total capacity in the access network to 40 Gbit/s, with symmetrical 10-gig speeds possible for each individual customer. NG-PON2 is also resilient in a way that current GPON technology can't match. Telcos will be able to use NG-PON2 to deliver services over multiple wavelengths on each fiber, making it easy to fail over from one wavelength to another as needed.

In particular, NG-PON2 is believed to be an important foundation for the future growth of 5G wireless technologies. One of the major use cases cited for the PON upgrade is the ability to provide both backhaul and fronthaul support for 5G deployments.

Despite the advantages of NG-PON2, however, several operators are considering an interim step on the road to next-generation PON. Companies like AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) are evaluating XGS-PON technology for the near term as a less expensive alternative to NG-PON2. While XGS-PON maxes out at a capacity of 10 Gbit/s, it's also cheaper to deploy because it relies on fixed optics rather than the tunable ones used in NG-PON2. (See Service Provider Split Emerges Over NG-PON2 Upgrade.)

On the question of whether Verizon will get the industry support it needs to make NG-PON2 successful, Khotimsky says, "We are leading this effort and I believe others will follow."

Asked if there's been any indication to support that belief, Khotimsky adds, "Privately we get this indication, yes."

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

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