XG-PON Is Alive in Europe… for Now

Just when I thought XG-PON was a dead duck of a technology, it seems the nascent European gigabit broadband market may give it a slender lease of life.

I had written off this technology -- a.k.a. 10G-PON, NGPON-1 or G.987, if you are fluent in ITU standardspeak -- as it all but disappeared from view and conversations after a few tests and trials about four or five years ago. (See BT Puts ZTE's XGPON to Work, BBWF 2010: Huawei's 10G GPON Coup and BBWF 2010: 10G GPON Hits Europe.)

Offering 10 Gbit/s of shared capacity downstream, XG-PON had been developed as the next high-speed fixed broadband evolutionary step after GPON (2.5 Gbit/s shared capacity).

It fell off the technology bandwagon largely because prevailing industry opinion suggested that FTTH operators would invest in GPON and gain what economies of scale they could for a number of years and then upgrade to NG-PON 2 (aka TWDM-PON), which offers 40 Gbit/s of shared downstream capacity and which can use the same outside plant (optical distribution network infrastructure) as GPON, so making for an easier and more efficient upgrade. (See 10G PON Technologies: Where Do They Make Sense?.)

And recently, NG-PON2 has been gaining momentum. (See Verizon Revs Up Wireline Race With NG-PON2, Calix Enters NG-PON2 Race, Adtran Claims Advance in NG-PON2 Economics and Alcatel-Lucent Fires NG-PON2 Starting Gun.)

But wait just one fiber-pickin' minute! It seems there's life in XG-PON yet, at least on the Iberian peninsula. Because Orange Spain has announced it has been putting XG-PON through its paces as an option for connecting mobile basestations (for fixed-line packet backhaul) and offering commercial broadband services of up to 1 Gbit/s.

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This seems a bit of a random move, but there's a logical reason. Orange (NYSE: FTE) has just completed the acquisition of Spanish competitive broadband service provider Jazztel to boost its network assets, customer base, markets and service offering in the country. Jazztel had already invested in a broadband network architecture from ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763) that incorporated XG-PON as an upgrade option, so it looks like Orange is making use of that existing capability. (See Fiber Sizzles in Spain as Orange Targets Jazztel and Jazztel Turns On Its FTTH network.)

There's also a competitive imperative, as Spain's incumbent operator Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF) has deployed XG-PON, from ZTE's fiercest rival Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , to develop its gigabit broadband services. (See Eurobites: Telefónica Preps NG-PON 1 Rollout.)

But XG-PON looks to be little more than a stepping stone: At the same time as announcing its mobile backhaul and gigabit trials using XG-PON technology, Orange Spain noted that it's about to start testing NG-PON2.

XG-PON may be experiencing something of a mini Spanish revival, but it looks short-lived. What's going to be interesting during the next few years is seeing if any of the other current broadband technologies that are attracting operator attention -- WDM-PON as yet another potential fiber-to-the-premises technology and G.fast and next-generation vectoring as the next steps for copper access lines -- go the same way. (See Qualcomm M&A Move Signals New Fixed Broadband Battle, A Guide to G.fast and Gigabit Europe: Where Beer & Broadband Come Together.)

— Ray Le Maistre, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

Duh! 8/21/2015 | 11:28:41 AM
Re: xg The significance of these technology trials is overstated.  They are a necessary, but not sufficient, step toward new service offerings (or upgrades to support existing services).  Vendors provide engineering prototypes, along with engineers to support them.  Cost to the service provider is relatively small. They are perfectly willing to conduct a successful technical trial and then shelve the results.

I do not expect Verizon to roll X-GPON1 or NGPON2  to support FiOS mass-market services any time soon.  From what I understand, utilization of existing GPON is very light, and expected to remain that way for a long time. 

The obvious application for these technologies is wireless backhaul.  However, it's not clear that there is enough coordination between VZ's wireline and wireless businesses to exploit this synergy. 

The other forseeable application is carrier ethernet services.  The question that the marketers will have to wrestle with is whether enterprise customers with bandwidth needs in excess of 1Gb/s are willing to accept shared facilities.  It is telling that the NG-PON2 trial included Type B protection.

This is good press for the technology team in Waltham, for Cisco and for PT.  For the immediate future, it's not much more than that.
steve q 8/20/2015 | 11:38:16 PM
xg The only question is what will verizon use this new xg--pon for fios customer or for there new moblie media. The new speed is great but at what cost for the customer most are using data only with the cost of cableTV.
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