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Enhance performance with passive optical LAN

Passive optical LAN technology addresses evolving service demands with outstanding network performance. This fiber optics-based technology allows businesses and public sector organizations to deliver all services on 1 high-capacity network, operate more efficiently, and improve mobile connectivity for all users. A POL deployment enhances the service experience, reduces costs, and delivers value for decades.

Wanted: A network that drives business success

High-bandwidth services are reshaping business practices in all sectors. Fast networking capabilities offer a means to process data more efficiently and reduce service delivery costs. But each sector wants different things from the network:

  • Businesses want gigabit networking that will help them reduce OPEX, add business agility, and sustain mission-critical services.
  • Governments want to deliver better services to citizens, reduce administration costs, and use public funds more effectively.
  • Hospitals want faster connections for data services and medical devices. They also want to share healthcare data more efficiently and support remote medical services.
  • Hotels want to improve the guest experience, simplify operations, and reduce IT budgets.
  • Real estate developers want to use fast fiber connections to increase property values and bring smarter operations to homes, offices, and shopping malls.
  • Universities want to support video-based learning, enrich their digital education offers, and optimize their use of educational resources.

Why upgrade the LAN?

While their motivations differ, many businesses and organizations face similar network challenges. Most have Ethernet-based LANs that run on copper cables. These LANs need upgrades to support high-bandwidth fixed and mobile services. Legacy upgrades must address challenges in 3 key areas:

  1. Convergence – Businesses can no longer afford to operate separate cabling, equipment, and management systems for voice, video, data, surveillance, access control, security, and Wi-Fi® services. They need 1 simple, cost-effective network that can run all services.
  2. Capacity – Heavy usage and high-bandwidth applications slow legacy LAN performance. Businesses routinely exchange enormous amounts of data, both internally and with the outside world. Low-capacity networks are already putting business performance at risk. The timing is right for a move to a high-capacity LAN.
  3. Mobility – Increasing reliance on mobile devices and applications puts pressure on network capacity used to backhaul Wi-Fi traffic. The market is moving to 802.11ac, and LANs need to support 1 Gbps. Bit rate requirements will be higher with 802.11ac Wave 2. LANs need the ability to scale bandwidth and adhere to evolving Wi-Fi standards. This calls for cabling and switching solutions that support simple, cost-effective upgrades.

More value for less investment

For those with Ethernet-based LANs, upgrades mean investing in new switches and perhaps even new cabling. It is worth considering alternatives that can deliver better value.

Passive optical LAN technology is the ideal alternative. It allows businesses and organizations to leverage the efficiency of optical fiber to:

  • Provide a premium service experience. A POL delivers gigabit speeds and protects sensitive data with built-in, military-grade security features.
  • Reduce costs by delivering all services on one efficient, high-capacity, network. A POL reduces operating costs by using equipment that requires less power, cooling, and maintenance. This equipment also uses much less space and covers 200x more area than legacy LAN equipment.
  • Get value for 50+ years. Optical fiber cables are more resistant and longer lasting than copper cables. They also offer unlimited bandwidth potential. Fiber-based POLs support cost-efficient network evolution by allowing businesses to reuse cables and access nodes for new services and bandwidth increases.

Passive optical LANs use high-capacity GPON technology to deliver voice, video, and data services across fiber network. GPON can deliver 2.5 Gbps downstream and 1.2 Gbps upstream – enough to support the needs of businesses and business users for years to come.

As bandwidth demand grows, GPON can be gracefully migrated to next-generation PON technology, such as time and wavelength division multiplexing (TWDM). GPON can accommodate bandwidth increases in manageable increments with minimal changes to electronics and no changes to cabling.

How to reduce TCO

A passive optical LAN deployment has an immediate impact on total cost of network ownership. The use case in Figure 1 shows that upgrading to a fiber-based POL can bring a 37% savings (-41% CAPEX and -35% OPEX) within 5 years.

The technology delivers these savings by creating efficiencies in several key areas, including cabling, network operations, network coverage, floor space usage, and power consumption.

Simplify the cable infrastructure
Fiber-optic cabling offers advantages over copper. For example, it’s easier to install and requires fewer cables. Fiber cables are also more flexible, more resistant to physical and environmental elements, and carry less fire load than their copper counterparts.

Businesses that choose fiber-based LANs can anticipate several cabling-related benefits, including:

  • Lower cabling costs – Fiber is cheaper and easier to maintain than copper. It’s also more efficient: fewer cables are needed to connect all users and deliver all service types.
  • Reduced space requirements – Fiber is thinner and lighter than copper. Its small form factor frees up space in walls and ceilings.
  • An end to cable congestion –Businesses can deploy fiber once and use it for all services for the next several decades. They can remove bulky copper bundles and perhaps recycle them to offset the cost of deploying fiber.

Figure 2. Comparing optical, fiber, and copper cables (image courtesy of TE Connectivity)

Figure 2 illustrates the space savings provided by fiber-optic cabling. The bundle on the left shows the fiber cables needed to connect 144 users. The orange and white bundles on the right show the cables that a traditional Ethernet LAN uses to connect the same number of users.

Streamline IT operations
LAN operating cost is 1 of the biggest expenses for enterprises. Traditional LANs use a layered architecture with active elements distributed throughout a given building or campus. Maintenance tasks such as provisioning, upgrades, replacement of defective hardware, and monitoring of switches are costly regardless of whether they are performed by skilled IT internal personnel or an outsourced service.

With a passive optical LAN, the access node, or optical line terminal (OLT), is the only active element that requires maintenance. The entire network can be easily managed from 1 point, using an integrated management platform or user-friendly web interface.

Expand LAN coverage
The coverage area for Ethernet LANs ranges from 30–100 m, depending on the cable type used and the bit rates offered. Businesses must add switches and patch panels to provide coverage throughout tall buildings or extended campuses. This means increasing investments in equipment, deployment, maintenance, power consumption, and storage space.

By contrast, a POL provides coverage over distances up to 20 km. A single energy-efficient access node can serve a tall building or large campus. There is no need to add switches or patch panels to cover a new site. Fiber cables can simply be extended to the new endpoints.

Increasing energy and space efficiency
Every business wants to reduce energy and real estate costs. A passive optical LAN does both by consuming 40% less power and 90% less floor space than a traditional Ethernet-based LAN.

A POL generates power savings in several areas, including:

  • Less active equipment that needs power and cooling
  • Lower per-user power consumption, delivered through a high-density access node that serves hundreds of users
  • Increased power over Ethernet efficiency due to the use of fiber cables that, unlike copper, offer no resistance and can sustain efficiency over long distances

Passive optical LAN technology saves space in multiple ways. A single OLT can serve an entire building or campus and be stored in a single communications closet. Splitters can be located on floors or walls. Modems, or optical network terminals (ONTs), can be placed on desktops or walls. Floor space freed up by a passive optical LAN can be converted into rooms that help generate revenue or increase efficiency.

Future-proof the LAN with TWDM-PON

The benefits of POL technology extend far into the future. The capacity of GPON networks will address the needs of users for years to come. When more capacity is needed, upgrades will be graceful and cost efficient.

An investment in this technology also clears the path to TWDM-PON, the next evolutionary fiber access technology. TWDM-PON supports 40 Gbps symmetrical bandwidth and beyond by multiplexing 4 or more optical wavelengths on the same fiber cable.

A fiber-based LAN provides flexibility to:

  • Adapt to future demand: A passive optical LAN supports bandwidth increases or lean operations. It also makes it possible to extend a different quality of service to different internal organizations, user groups, or campuses.
  • Evolve on the existing infrastructure: Organizations can evolve to TWDM using the same fiber, splitters, and OLT. TWDM can be deployed on top of GPON through an OLT enhancement.
  • Invest gradually: TWDM technology allows organizations to introduce 1 wavelength at a time, in line with service demand.

Looking ahead

Technology evolution provides a platform for enabling better, faster and more economical business practices.

Today, businesses and organizations of all types have an unprecedented opportunity to benefit from innovative communications technologies. These technologies offer rich new devices and applications, fast connections, and mobility that allows workers to be productive from virtually anywhere.

A fast, reliable, and cost-efficient LAN remains an essential enabler. By upgrading to GPON-based passive optical LAN technology, businesses and organizations will be well positioned to enable and benefit from new communications technologies for years to come.

To contact the author or request additional information, please send an email to

Ana Pesovic

About Ana Pesovic

Ana heads the Fixed Networks Fiber marketing activities in Nokia. She built up extensive international telecom experience, with positions in sales, pre-sales and R&D in Germany, Spain, Portugal, Belgium and India. Ana has a Masters Degree in Informatics and Computer Science from the University of Belgrade. As member of the Board of Directors of the FTTH Council Europe, she’s a strong advocate of Fiber.

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