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Wavelength Mobility opens paths to efficiency


TWDM-PON Wavelength Mobility technology gives network operators new flexibility to move users and services between wavelengths. It allows operators to create efficiency by supporting novel use cases for equipment protection, bandwidth rebalancing, reduced power usage, network maintenance, rogue optical network unit (ONU) mitigation and infrastructure sharing.

Tunable ONUs: Building blocks for Wavelength Mobility

The TWDM-PON standard calls for colorless ONUs that are completely tunable in the upstream and downstream directions. ONUs are typically slaves that follow wavelength tuning instructions from the optical line termination (OLT). If required, these ONUs can be re-tuned to different wavelengths during operations.

Wavelength Mobility use cases

Nokia has helped to define and advance the TWDM-PON Wavelength Mobility standard by providing approaches for managing mobility across different channel terminations. These approaches have enabled several key use cases.

Equipment protection

If a failure affects specific wavelengths, the operator can minimize the service impact by redirecting traffic to other wavelengths, including wavelengths terminated on different line cards. This strategy is primarily used when an OLT port or the line card behind it fails. It can also be useful if power fails or a wavelength is lost – for example, if a channel attachment fiber is cut.

To support the use case, the operator can statically assign a “protection” channel next to the “operating” channel for individual ONUs. The OLT uses Physical Layer Operations, Administration and Maintenance (PLOAM) messages to convey this assignment to each ONU. If a failure occurs, the ONU tunes to the alternative wavelength and negotiates with the new OLT port.

Bandwidth rebalancing

Operators can use bandwidth rebalancing to react to changing bandwidth demands or usage trends. When bandwidth thresholds are reached – for example, if bandwidth usage reaches 80 percent of the threshold on a given channel – the operator can move some users to another channel.

Reduced power usage

The operator can reduce power usage by temporarily redirecting subscribers to a specific set of wavelengths and turning some equipment off. For example, at the OLT, the operator can redirect all users to one designated wavelength and shut other OLT ports down during overnight or low-usage hours.

Maintenance and upgrades

The operator can avoid disrupting services by moving users to other wavelengths when it upgrades software or replaces equipment. With different OLT ports on different line cards, operators can upgrade or replace a component of one wavelength without affecting the other wavelengths.

Rogue ONU mitigation

A rogue ONU is an ONU that transmits on the PON when it is not supposed to. Traditional rogue ONU mitigation schemes involve shutting off the ONU’s timeslots in the hope that the ONU will listen and stop transmitting. The problem with this approach is that the rogue ONU may ignore those instructions and transmit outside of its assigned window. Wavelength Mobility offers the ability to tune the rogue ONU to a different, unused channel to determine and eventually mitigate its activity. Alternatively, ONUs disturbed by such behavior can also be re-tuned to non-affected channels.

Wavelength Mobility elements and approaches

Three elements are required for Wavelength Mobility. The first is the physical aspect of tuning wavelengths on transceivers. The second is the PON protocol, which supports PLOAM interactions and state machines. The third is additional logic and higher-level decision making that can control wavelength and user assignments.

Operators can choose from two different approaches to assign wavelengths to ONUs:

  • Non-calibrated optics on the ONU side: The OLT monitors the signal from the ONU and, based on the received signal, instructs the ONU to move up or down until it reaches the correct wavelength. Once it reaches the correct wavelength, the ONU is continuously fine-tuned through ongoing feedback from the OLT. This feedback ensures that the signal is arriving at a peak level. The ONU similarly tunes its receive side to the correct wavelength and then fine-tunes the filter setting to ensure that a peak signal is received.
  • Pre-calibrated lasers on the ONU side: The wavelength pairs are pre-calibrated in the ONU transceiver so that the ONU can tune directly to the wavelength pair indicated by the OLT. There is no need for fine-tuning. Because the devices are pre-calibrated in the factory, they can go to an exact wavelength without any feedback from the OLT. If an ONU receives a message on a specific downstream wavelength, it is assumed to be communicating in the upstream direction using the associated wavelength in the pre-defined pair.

Reassigning wavelengths

Operators can use different mechanisms to reassign wavelengths to ONUs. In each case, the OLT sends instructions embedded in dedicated PLOAM messages defined by the standard. The ONU listens for, receives and processes messages on its current operating wavelength.

The OLT allows the ONU to activate on one of four (or eight) wavelength pairs. The OLT is responsible for redirecting the ONU to the right channel and sending down the configuration to activate the service. This can be done in two ways:

  1. Round-robin or uniform assignment: The first ONU is assigned to the first wavelength, the second ONU to the second wavelength and so on. This assignment cycle is repeated, with every fifth ONU assigned again to the first wavelength.
  2. Bandwidth balancing-based assignment: New ONUs are assigned to the wavelength that currently has the lowest aggregate traffic.

More advanced assignment and reassignment policies can be controlled by a mobility manager function that determines which channel the ONUs should use for operation. The Nokia Access Controller implements this function. In a simple system, the manager function can be contained in a single OLT. It can also be a manual action by an operator that configures an OLT to assign a wavelength to a user.

For advanced use cases, operators need a higher-level controller to implement advanced wavelength assignment and reassignment policies between cards and even between shelves.

Once the Access Controller makes the assignment decision, the different channel terminations (i.e. NG-PON2 OLT ports) need to work together to control the ONU movement transactions. This communication is typically realized using an inter-channel termination protocol (ICTP) defined in Broadband Forum standard WT-352. Nokia is playing a key role in defining this standard.

The Access Controller helps operators by making intelligent wavelength assignment decisions both during the activation of an ONU and once the ONU is in service. The Access Controller is responsible for processing relevant network inputs and implementing operator-selected policies to assign specific wavelength pairs to ONUs.

Tuning strategies and considerations

The development of tunable optics is one of the most significant challenges related to TWDM-PON. The most challenging requirements include:

  • Reliably and predictably tuning the laser and receiver to a pre-determined wavelength
  • Mitigating wavelength drift induced by the rapidly changing heat effects of bursty upstream traffic
  • Enabling fast switching speed for both the laser and receiver
  • Transmitting at high output power levels with minimum crosstalk on neighboring channels and receiving the downstream signal with sufficient sensitivity and isolation from adjacent channels

Several technologies have been considered to address these challenges, both on the transmit and receive side.

On the transmit side, the simplest approach is to use a thermally controlled distributed feedback (DFB) laser. With a DFB laser, the wavelength is set by a thermoelectric cooler that precisely controls the temperature. However, the DFB laser is directly modulated and the temperature can change when there are bursts of traffic. This causes the wavelength to drift outside the allowed wavelength window. The stabilization process involves careful temperature control techniques.

Another effective approach is to use an externally modulated laser (EML). An EML consists of a DFB that is always on, followed by an electro-absorption modulator (EAM) that sits in front of the laser to pass light for zeros and block light for ones. As with a DFB, the wavelength is tuned by temperature but drift is reduced because the laser is not turned on and off. However, the EAM adds extra loss, which makes achieving high power more challenging.

Other non-thermally controlled lasers include:

  • Distributed Bragg reflector (DBR) lasers, which have the wavelength set by current
  • Acoustically controlled lasers, which are not yet proven
  • Resonator lasers, which have the wavelength set by an external wavelength-controlled resonance chamber
  • Transmitters controlled by microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), which may consist of a MEMS selecting one of four resonance chambers or one of four colored lasers

On the receiver side, two basic approaches are considered. One is a thermally controlled etalon filter that selects the desired wavelength before passing it on to the receiver. This approach suffers from relatively high attenuation and slow switching time. The alternative is a selectable device (e.g. a MEMS) that tunes or selects the appropriate filter for the desired receive wavelength.

Wavelength switches can be seamless for users. However, they happen at the speed at which the laser can tune the wavelength, which varies depending on the application and the service-level agreements that the operator has with customers. With slower lasers, tuning has a greater effect on users. The NG-PON2 standard defines three classes of optics tuning time performance. Class 3 is 25ms to 1s, Class 2 is 10µs to 25ms, and Class 1 is <10µs. The current technology focus is Class 3 and Class 2.

Looking ahead

TWDM-PON is the telecommunications industry’s chosen solution for implementing NG-PON2 fiber access technology. Wavelength Mobility is helping TWDM-PON gain traction with operators. Nokia is helping to lead the development of the Wavelength Mobility standard. The company is also working to improve mobility techniques and help operators use mobility to boost operational efficiency and get maximum value from their investments in TWDM-PON and fiber.

Ron Heron

About Ron Heron

Ronald Heron is responsible for next generation fiber technology strategies in the Alcatel-Lucent CTO team. An electrical engineering graduate of Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, he performed design and strategy roles in broadband access, optical and radio networks with Bell Canada before joining Nokia (formerly Alcatel) in 2000. Located over the years in Belgium, India and in Canada, Ronald has provided strategic guidance in the development of FTTx, FTTH and wireless/wireline solutions for the global access market. He has previously chaired an FSAN working group, acted as vice-chair in the European FTTHCouncil, participated in the Broadband Forum.

Joe Smith

About Joe Smith

Joe Smith is Product Line Manager for Fixed Access PON systems at Nokia, located in Raleigh, NC. He has worked in the field of fiber optics for the past 40 years at ITT, Alcatel, Alcatel-Lucent and now Nokia. He has held different positions as electrical design engineer, system engineer, optical technology manager, and current product line manager. Since 2008 he has contributed to the standardization of PON systems in FSAN and ITU, where he has held co-editor positions for Optical PMD Layer standards.

David Thomas

About David Thomas

David Thomas is a Product Line Manager for Fiber Access at Nokia. David has several years of experience in Broadband Fiber Access technologies. He’s held different positions in software development, System Architecture and Product Management, with international exposure. He holds a Masters Degree in Electromechanics from the University of Louvain-La-Neuve (Belgium). Nowadays David is also a contributor to BBF and ITU-T standardization bodies.

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