Passive optical networking (PON) technology is increasing traction with service providers to meet consumers’ growing appetite for broadband services.
We caught up with Gary Gutknecht, Senior Vice President of Product Management at Technicolor Connected Home, to better understand how new developments in PON are changing the way network operators provision fiber to the home connections, and creating new opportunities to introduce innovative customer premises equipment (CPE) to the market.
Gutknecht: We are in a pretty exciting space for fiber-based network access, for several reasons. PON technology has been in place for a number of years, but today we are at an inflection point. Fiber is becoming more important as the last mile access technology for both our telco customers and our cable customers, but for different reasons.
The telcos want to get vastly greater bandwidths than they have been able to deliver over twisted pair copper. Cable operators want to provide a more symmetric service. DOCSIS, for instance, offers a good bandwidth downstream but is very limited in the upstream. PON technology can solve that.
Also, as operators push fiber over the last mile into the home, they are looking at opening up the interface between the access network and the home. This allows Technicolor and other companies in this market to integrate PON technologies into our devices.
In the past we’ve faced a closed ecosystem where the vendor of the optical line terminator (OLT) -- the network end of a passive optical network -- has also been the vendor of the optical network terminal (ONT) -- the customer premises end of the passive optical network.
It has been a closed ecosystem. Now we see that interface opening up.
Another element coming into play is that technology is now becoming available to deliver 10Gbps across that optical link using several different flavors of PON technologies.
This will allow service providers to offer higher speeds to users.
Now while it is true that not every individual user not necessarily want or need 10Gig access, having that fatter pipe will allow service providers to offer very rich services and high bandwidth services to consumers.
Gutknecht: Most fiber to the home deployments today use what the service providers call a ‘two box solution’. They terminate the PON in an ONT, a ruggedized box on the outside of the house. Then there is a connection into the home to a traditional broadband gateway of the kind that Technicolor and other manufacturers have produced for a long time.
That type solution with two devices — one outside the home to terminate the fiber and one inside the home to handle the traditional gateway functions — can be quite costly. So we are seeing some operators moving to a one box solution, driving the fiber all the way into the home...and into the gateway. That is why we are developing next generation 10Gig PON devices. And we are on the verge of making those a reality.
We are working very hard using one of the first SoCs on the market -- from Broadcom -- that is capable of doing all the different 10gig flavors on a single chip to create a range of platforms that supports many of the emerging 10Gig PON technologies, whether that is NG-PON2, XGS-PON 10Gig EPON. This means we will be able to bid on many more opportunities than we can at present with our current products.
Gutknecht: Technicolor and Broadcom have a long-standing relationship. We have been doing business with each other for many years, and it is not uncommon for us to sit down with Broadcom from time to time and look at each other’s roadmaps and find some intersection points.
We both believed that 10Gig PON would be big, enabling operators to do more serious fiber to the home rollouts. Because we had that shared belief we got on board an early access program for this SoC. That enabled us to get a head start with our design, to work with Broadcom on the final stages of their design, to make it more friendly for us to pick up.
Gutknecht: Demand for data continues to grow as people deploy more and more devices in their homes. So it’s important for service providers to invest in their access networks to keep up with that demand, but its expensive, and it’s tough.
To get to 10Gig PON they have to invest in equipment at the edge of their networks. Providing more fiber to the home, however, entails construction and running fiber through the ground, neither of which is cheap. But the competitive pressures are pushing them all in that direction.
Service providers are pursuing different strategies. Some are cherry-picking the highest bandwidth users; some are systematically rolling out fiber in particular neighborhoods. While they would all love to get fiber to everyone tomorrow, they face significant capital barriers.
Nevertheless, they all believe this is where they need to go. Having 10 Gig PON as their last mile network will give them the flexibility to meet the demands from all the new services and new devices consumers are taking up.
Gutknecht: We are heads down working on our products for both GPON and EPON deployments, taking advantage of the early access program to create the first products. We will have a couple of variants of the platform that will be able to tackle different opportunities in the near future.
The next steps are to evangelize the products by exposing them to our service provider customers jointly and on our own.
This is not uncommon strategy. We do these sorts of things on a day-to-day basis.
But it’s a little more exciting to rollout new products for the first time. It makes for more engaging conversations with our customers.
All of that account work is well underway. We already have our first design win with the platform we are working on, and we are shooting for several more.