April 3, 2012
A group of engineers that's studying the notion of running EPON signals over hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) networks hopes to gain approval for their project from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) this summer.
The near-term goal is to obtain authorization for the project, a budding IEEE standards effort called EPON Protocol Over Coax (EPoC), by July, says Study Group Chairman Howard Frazier, who's also senior technical director at Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM). It's envisioned that cable will use EPoC initially to offer high-capacity services to business customers. (See Why Cable Needs EPON Over Coax and EPON-Over-Coax Starts Its Standards Journey .)
The EPoC working group, formed late last year, will need that stamp before it can start the standard-writing process. In the meantime, it's made some headway on the assembly and adoption of several overarching objectives that the standard will try to nail down. What was agreed upon at the group's meeting in mid-March in Waikoloa, Hawaii, was done so unanimously. [Ed. note: And we surmise that the choice of venue didn't draw too many complaints, either.]
Most of the approved objectives sound like common sense at this point. A big one is to target a physical specification that will let MSOs operate EPON protocol on HFC, and ensure the ability to run asymmetric and symmetric bandwidths. EPoC intends to use the existing Ethernet MAC and maintain compatibility with 1G EPON and 10G EPON, making changes "only when absolutely necessary," Frazier notes.
Because cable's not in the business of doing forklift upgrades, another objective is to have EPoC signals coexist with legacy cable services (i.e. analog and digital TV, set-top box control channels, Docsis data) since it's expected that all of those services will run on the same swath of cable spectrum. Also, EPoC will give operators bandwidth flexibility in this area rather than specifically telling MSOs how and where to carve out bandwidth for EPoC. [Ed. note: A more detailed blow-by-blow account of the meeting can be found here (PDF).] (See The Case for EPON-Over-Coax & CCAP Coexistence.)
"We want this to be a worldwide standard, so we probably can't define a worldwide band plan," Frazier says. "We know that EPON works. We know that Docsis works. Now we're trying to run EPON over a plant that supports Docsis."
He acknowledges that the group "is really at the forming stage," noting that the vendors, service providers and chipmakers involved are learning how to listen and talk to each other and drive toward what's mutually beneficial. "We weren't there a couple of months ago," he adds.
The working group isn't ready to expand beyond itself yet, but Frazier says the project is "on track" to secure IEEE project approval this summer. Looking ahead, the group will hammer out more objectives at two interim meetings proposed for the week of May 14 in Minneapolis, Minn., and the week of June 6 in Beijing.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable
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