Asia-Pacific operators are leading the world in the transition to next-generation PON, analysts say.
They are being driven by their huge installed base and the growing demands on existing networks, but are also attracted by widening PON use cases and long-term strategic planning, experts told the Light Reading Next-Gen Broadband APAC event conference.
"What we're seeing now in the region is a very strong shift and a very clear shift toward 10G," said Jeff Heynen, Dell'Oro VP for broadband access and home networking.
There was a clear trend line of new 10G ports of all kinds as operators look to expand their gigabit offerings, he said.
About 75% of all fixed broadband subs in the region, including China, are served by fiber. He expects that to grow to nearly 85% by 2025.
Asia's PON equipment market is forecast to grow at 17% CAGR over the next five years to around $3.4 billion, according to Omdia.
Jaimie Lenderman, senior analyst, service provider networks, said with operators bringing forward spending as a result of the pandemic, PON is playing an expanding role in their long-term strategies.
"Operators are thinking long-term all way to fixed-mobile network convergence – being able to have one cohesive network where end-to-end provisioning can be done," she said.
"PON has an extreme growth opportunity in APAC. We are very bold on our forecast but we are very confident," Lenderman said.
She said PON had started as best-effort FTTH residential, but is now extending into SME markets, and is being deployed by a number of Asian operators for smart city and other apps. It's also being widely canvassed for wireless backhaul.
"The end-play is a converged, single fiber access network to support FTTH, SMEs, enterprises and smart city," she said. In the future it offered upgrade to 25G and 50G networks, with the potential to support x-haul, 5G fronthaul and network slicing.
Hong Seok Shin, senior manager at SKT, which has offered 10G services since late 2018, said it has signed up many business customers attracted by the symmetric data rates.
He said SKT plans to use 10G PON for small cell and 5G backhaul because of its more accurate time synchronization.
"For next-gen PON we will definitely want more bandwidth that we will use for mobile fronthaul," he said.
Kurt Rodgers, network strategy manager for New Zealand wholesale provider Chorus, said while it was upgrading to 10G, it was not expecting big numbers soon because the equipment cost was still quite high.
"There is significant cost to upgrade the OLT," he said.
"We want to see the cost of the optical network go down – the 10G Ethernet port, and Wi-Fi 6 and all of that. That's really the obvious issue – that uptake is driven by low cost."
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— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading