Briefing: Next-gen PON
Part 1: NG-PON2
The next-generation passive optical network (PON) will mark a departure from existing PON technologies. Some operators want systems based on the emerging standard for deployment by 2015.
“One of the goals in FSAN is to converge on one solution that can serve all the markets"
Derek Nesset, co-chair of FSAN's NGPON task group
The Full Service Access Network (FSAN) industry group is close to finalising the next optical access technology that will follow on from 10 Gigabit GPON.
FSAN - the pre-standards forum consisting of telecommunications service providers, testing labs and equipment manufacturers - crafted what became the International Telecommunication Union's (ITU) standards for GPON (Gigabit PON) and 10 Gigabit GPON (XGPON1). In the past year FSAN has been working on NG-PON2, the PON technology that comes next.
“One of the goals in FSAN is to converge on one solution that can serve all the markets - residential users, enterprise and mobile backhaul," says Derek Nesset, co-chair of FSAN's NGPON task group.
Some mobile operators are talking about backhaul demands that will require multiple 10 Gigabit-per-second (Gbps) links to carry the common public radio interface (CPRI), for example. The key design goal, however, is that NG-PON2 retains the capability to serve residential users cost-effectively, stresses Nesset.
FSAN says it has a good description of each of the candidate technologies: what each system looks like and its associated power consumption. "We are trying to narrow down the solutions and the ideal is to get down to one,” says Nesset.
The power consumption of the proposed access scheme is of key interest for many operators, he says. Another consideration is the risk associated with moving to a novel architecture rather than adopting an approach that builds on existing PON schemes.
Operators such as NTT of Japan and Verizon in the USA have a huge installed base of PON and want to avoid having to amend their infrastructure for any next-generation PON scheme unable to re-use power splitters. Other operators such as former European incumbents are in the early phases of their rollout of PON and have Greenfield sites that could deploy other passive infrastructure technologies such as arrayed waveguide gratings (AWG).
"The ideal is we select a system that operates with both types of infrastructure," says Nesset. "Certain flavours of WDM-PON (wavelength division multiplexing PON) don't need the wavelength splitting device at the splitter node; some form of wavelength-tuning can be installed at the customer premises." That said, the power loss of existing optical splitters is higher than AWGs which impacts PON reach – one of several trade-offs that need to be considered.
Once FSAN has concluded its studies, member companies will generate 'contributions' for the ITU, intended for standardisation. The ITU has started work on defining high-level requirements for NG-PON2 through contributions from FSAN operators. Once the NG-PON2 technology is chosen, more contributions that describe the physical layer, the media access controller and the customer premise equipment's management requirements will follow.
Nesset says the target is to get such documents into the ITU by September 2012 but achieving wide consensus is the priority rather than meeting this deadline. "Once we select something in FSAN, we expect to see the industry ramp up its contributions based on that selected technology to the ITU," says Nesset. FSAN will select the NG-PON2 technology before September.
Candidate technologies include an extension to the existing GPON and XGPON1 based on time-division multiplexing (TDM). Already vendors such as Huawei have demonstrated prototype 40 Gigabit capacity PON systems that also support hybrid TDM and WDM-PON (TWDM-PON). Other schemes include WDM-PON, ultra-dense WDM-PON and orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM).
Nesset says there are several OFDM variants being proposed. He views OFDM as 'DSL in the optical domain’: sub-carriers finely spaced in the frequency domain, each carrying low-bit-rate signals.
One advantage of OFDM technology, says Nesset, includes taking a narrowband component to achieve a broadband signal: a narrowband 10Gbps transmitter and receiver can achieve 40Gbps using sub-carriers, each carrying quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM). "All the clever work is done in CMOS - the digital signal processing and the analogue-to-digital conversion," he says. The DSP executes the fast Fourier transform (FFT) and the inverse FFT.
"We are trying to narrow down the solutions and the ideal is to get down to one"
Another technology candidate is WDM-PON including an ultra-dense variant that promises a reach of up to 100km and 1,000 wavelengths. Such a technology uses a coherent receiver to tune to the finely spaced wavelengths.
In addition to being compatible with existing infrastructure, another FSAN consideration is compatibility with existing PON standards. This is to avoid having to do a wholesale upgrade of users. For example, with XGPON1, the optical line terminal (OLT) using an additional pair of wavelengths - a wavelength overlay - sits alongside the existing GPON OLT. ”The same principle is desirable for NG-PON2,” says Nesset.
However, an issue is that spectrum is being gobbled up with each generation of PON. PON systems have been designed to be low cost and the transmit lasers used are not wavelength-locked and drift with ambient temperature. As such they consume spectrum similar to coarse WDM wavelength bands. Some operators such as Verizon and NTT also have a large installed base of analogue video overlay at 1550nm.
”So in the 1500 band you've got 1490nm for GPON, 1550nm for RF (radio frequency) video, and 1577nm for XGPON; there are only a few small gaps,” says Nesset. A technology that can exploit such gaps is both desirable and a challenge. “This is where ultra-dense WDM-PON could come into play,” he says. This technology could fit tens of channels in the small remaining spectrum gaps.
The technological challenges implementing advanced WDM-PON systems that will likely require photonic integration is also a concern for the operators. "The message from the vendors is that ’when you tell us what to do, we have got the technology to do it’,” says Nesset. ”But they need the see the volume applications to justify the investment.” However, operators need to weigh up the technological risks in developing these new technologies and the potential for not realising the expected cost reductions.
Nesset points out that each generation of PON has built on previous generations: GPON built on BPON and XGPON on GPON. But NG-PON2 will inevitably be based on new approaches. These include TWDM-PON which is an evolution of XG-PON into the wavelength domain, virtual point-to-point approaches such as WDM-PON that may also use an AWG, and the use of digital signal processing with OFDM or coherent ultra dense WDM-PON. ”It is quite a challenge to weigh up such diverse technological approaches,” says Nesset.
If all goes smoothly it will take two ITU plenary meetings, held every nine months, to finalise the bulk of the NG-PON2 standard. That could mean mid-2013 at the earliest.
FSAN's timetable is based on operators wanting systems deployable in 2015. That requires systems to be ready for testing in 2014.
“[Once deployed] we want NG-PON2 to last quite a while and be scalable and flexible enough to meet future applications and markets as they emerge,” says Nesset.