It might be an exaggeration to say the XG-PON standard is suddenly thriving, but it has certainly gained some momentum in both Europe and Asia during the past few weeks.
Following news in mid-August about XG-PON developments in Spain, Singapore's MobileOne Ltd. (M1) (Singapore: MONE) has recently launched a broadband service based on XG-PON technology and promising speeds of up to 10 Gbit/s. (See XG-PON Is Alive in Europe… for Now.)
M1, the smallest of Singapore's three network operators, has unveiled a range of tariffs for the XG-PON service, starting at 1,088 Singaporean dollars (US$769) per month for a connection of 2 Gbit/s and rising to S$2,888 ($2,040) for the whole 10Gbit/s shebang.
M1 already offers a 1Gbit/s GPON service as well as a 10Gbit/s Active Ethernet service but insists it is addressing a "gap in corporate connectivity options." The new XG-PON offering is aimed at meeting what the operator describes as "pent-up demand for a scalable and cost-effective connectivity service, especially from businesses with high-bandwidth requirements such as gaming and media companies."
But the operator is also planning on extending the XG-PON service into the consumer market by the end of the year.
That move raises the question: How would any subscriber would know whether or not they were receiving a 2Gbit/s or 10Gbit/s service? And why would anyone need a 10Gbit/s connection to their home?
That said, the launch of such a high-bandwidth offering would allow M1 to boast a much faster service than its rivals, as things currently stand. Both Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. (SingTel) (OTC: SGTJY) and StarHub are marketing 1Gbit/s services as their nippiest.
M1 executives might also have an eye on developments in nearby Hong Kong, where HKT Ltd. became another Asian operator to make XG-PON moves back in May. In partnership with China's Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , the broadband operator said it was planning a mass-market rollout of 10Gbit/s XG-PON-based services in the third quarter. Its aim -- it indicated at the time -- was to make these available to "all existing GPON customers" by the end of September.
As for why, Huawei claims the high-speed technology will facilitate instant sharing or information storage through cloud based networks, meaning consumers can -- for instance -- upload and download thousands of photos and videos from the Internet in just seconds. Given Singaporeans' penchant for gadgetry and digital services, M1 may feel the bandwidth boost is something consumers will crave.
The bigger question for those in the industry is whether XG-PON activity will work up a head of steam or fizzle out. As Light Reading has previously noted, Orange Spain appears to be taking advantage of an XG-PON upgrade option that China's ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763) included in the broadband network architecture of Jazztel plc , the competitive operator Orange recently acquired. Longer term, its sights appear to be fixed on NG-PON2, a technology that promises 40 Gbit/s of shared downstream capacity and is able to make use of the same optical distribution network as GPON. (See Fiber Sizzles in Spain as Orange Targets Jazztel.)
Essentially, that means upgrading to NG-PON2 could make a lot more sense for GPON operators than investing heavily in XG-PON, as long as they can wait for NG-PON 2 technology to become affordable. (See 10G PON Technologies: Where Do They Make Sense?)
Of course, with some of the fastest broadband networks in the world, operators in developed parts of Asia have moved beyond GPON and EPON more quickly than counterparts in Europe. XG-PON has, quite simply, been the next step up.
"HKT has always led the market, so it's really no big surprise to see them move to 10 Gbit/s," says Teresa Mastrangelo, senior analyst, New IP, at Heavy Reading . "For M1, the Singapore fiber network is open access and the OLT [optical line terminal] was already capable of 10Gbit/s service."
That means SingTel and StarHub should be able to follow M1 into the XG-PON market fairly easily, says Mastrangelo, if they so choose. "XG-PON is easier to implement than NG-PON2 since only the downstream bandwidth increases while it continues to use the same upstream bandwidth," she adds.
No doubt these Asian players will maintain their head start over Europe's operators in the NG-PON race, too. In both regions, though, broadband services look set to get a whole lot faster.
— Iain Morris, , News Editor, Light Reading