Google Fiber and Nokia take 50G PON for a spin

Google Fiber (GFiber) is the first US operator to test Nokia's 50G PON platform. GFiber Labs, a new innovation hub, conducted the trial in the Kansas City area.

Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor

July 8, 2024

3 Min Read
Optical fiber lines transmitting data with bright light
(Source: Cinefootage Visuals/Alamy Stock Photo)

Google Fiber (GFiber) is leaning hard into efforts to improve the overall customer experience, but generating faster speeds and feeds still remains important to the fiber operator.

The latest case in point: GFiber has teamed with Nokia to test 50 Gbit/s (downstream) connections running on 50G PON equipment – in this instance, Nokia's Lightspan MF fiber access platform.

Nokia said it's the first such test it has conducted with an operator in the US and the second globally (Australia's nbn was the first).

The trial, carried out by Nokia with GFiber Labs, an innovation hub introduced last fall, took place in one of GFiber's "fiber huts" in the Kansas City area, Liz Hsu, GFiber's senior director of product and billing, explained in this blog post. GFiber Labs, which is also exploring areas such as augmented virtual reality and 16K video, is sizing up an eventual jump to 100-Gig technology.

Today's announcement follows a similar one last October, when GFiber and Nokia hooked up on the deployment of 25G PON technology. Tennessee-based EPB, Vodafone Qatar and OGI in Wales are among other operators that are deploying Nokia's 25G PON platform.

"We are always looking for ways to push the capabilities of our fiber network to deliver the best possible experience to our customers," GFiber's Hsu said in a statement.

Related:Ziply Fiber launches 50-Gig service for $900 per month

GFiber did not say when it might start to offer faster speed plans that could take advantage of 50G PON technologies.

Ziply Fiber introduced a 50 Gbit/s broadband service across its entire fiber network in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. But Ziply Fiber's top-shelf speed offering, which sells for a lofty $900 per month, doesn't use PON. Instead it's underpinned by a fiber-based Ethernet connection that requires some additional, specialized equipment in the customer's home.

Türk Telekom and ZTE have also connected on a 50G PON trial.

'The new norm'

GFiber currently offers symmetrical 8 Gbit/s speeds in all its fiber markets (with XGS-PON), and up to 20 Gbit/s in select markets, including Kansas City, North Carolina's Triangle region, and parts of Arizona and Iowa. More GFiber markets will get access to 20-Gig speeds as the operator looks to deploy Nokia's 25G PON technology across all its markets by the end of the year.

Multi-gig speeds are "already the new norm," Hsu explained, adding that the new 50G PON technology will be able to coexist with the fiber running the operator's XGS-PON and 25G PON infrastructure. In the Kansas City trial, GFiber said it used Nokia gear to simultaneously run 10G/25G PON along with 25G/50G PON over its fiber network.

Related:Google Fiber's new innovation hub explores what's next for broadband

Nokia noted that it now supports 10G and 25G PON products, offers 50G tech for trials and has tapped into 100G PON as a "technology demonstrator." In April, nbn, the Australian provider of wholesale broadband, worked with Nokia to demonstrate 100-Gig speeds.

Boosting customer experience

Though GFiber continues to boost its speeds to the home with new PON tech, the operator has also been applying more focus on improving the overall customer experience.

Some of that has taken shape via new tools that help GFiber analyze and determine how the service is performing inside the home, and then sharing those details with customers via the GFiber app.

The focus on experience also extends to new Wi-Fi tech. GFiber, for example, has retired its legacy routers and has shifted to Wi-Fi 6E for all new customers. The company has also begun to deploy Wi-Fi 7 for its 20 Gbit/s lab work in Raleigh-Durham and plans to extend Wi-Fi 7 support to its other multi-gigabit tiers later this year.

"For us, service is our core product," John Keib, GFiber's chief technology and product officer, told Light Reading at the recent Network X Americas event in Irving, Texas. "On the service side, we're spending a lot of time … reinforcing whether customers really feel and appreciate the speed that we're offering in the home."

Related:Nokia flaunts Google Fiber as 25G PON customer

About the Author(s)

Jeff Baumgartner

Senior Editor, Light Reading

Jeff Baumgartner is a Senior Editor for Light Reading and is responsible for the day-to-day news coverage and analysis of the cable and video sectors. Follow him on X and LinkedIn.

Baumgartner also served as Site Editor for Light Reading Cable from 2007-2013. In between his two stints at Light Reading, he led tech coverage for Multichannel News and was a regular contributor to Broadcasting + Cable. Baumgartner was named to the 2018 class of the Cable TV Pioneers.

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