Cable Tech

Cable EPON Gear Makes the Grade

In what could be a big boost for the cable industry's business services efforts, CableLabs has approved the first six equipment vendors for Ethernet Passive Optical Network (EPON) products that meet the organization's DOCSIS Provisioning of EPON (DPoE) specs.

CommScope Inc., Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., Sumitomo Electric Industries Ltd. and ZTE Corp. all got the nod for their DPoE systems Monday. Communications Test Design Inc. (CTDI), Finisar Corp., Huawei, and Sumitomo Electric took home qualifications for their optical network units (ONUs). In all, CableLabs approved eight DPoE products for the industry's use.

While the name is acronym-heavy, the DPoE spec is designed for a simple purpose. It enables cable operators to deploy EPON technology over the fiber portions of their hybrid fiber-coax (HFC) networks while still leveraging the same provisioning and back-office management systems they already use for DOCSIS cable modems over the coax portion.

As a result, cable providers can more easily offer EPON service and high speeds over fiber links to mid-size and larger commercial customers. MSOs can also keep their capital and operational expenses down and avoid introducing greater complexity into their networks. In addition, this first round of CableLabs' DPoE qualifications means that the vendors' EPON equipment is considered interoperable. So, cable operators are now free to mix and match these approved products as they deploy EPON in their markets.

Back in 2010, EPON became the default networking technology for cable companies seeking to enter or expand in the lucrative commercial services market. While Verizon Communications Inc. selected Gigabit Passive Optical Networking (GPON) when it started deploying fiber-to-the-premise (FTTP) in 2005, cable operators opted for EPON largely because it appeared to offer a faster route to 10Gbit/s speeds. (See Why Cable Hearts EPON.)

Since then, however, EPON deployments have been slow to materialize for cable. Of the major U.S. MSOs, only Bright House Networks has deployed EPON for business services in any meaningful way so far.

Although the DPoE specs have been around for several years, it wasn't until late 2012 that hints of the first DPoE lab trials began to surface. Now, with the first eight product qualifications from CableLabs, perhaps DPoE's day has finally arrived. (See Bringing EPON to Cable: It's a Scale Thing.)

— Mari Silbey, Special to
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