XG-PON - Top wireline technologies in 2013

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What is it? XG-PON, otherwise known as 10G-PON under the ITU-T G.987 standard, is the next phase in the evolving PON (Passive Optical Networking) family of technologies for FTTP (Fiber to the Premises) networks.

Similar to GPON and BPON, the two previous generations of PON technology, the 10 Gbps of capacity XG-PON delivers is shared by all users connected to the same PON. It also incorporates different multiplexing techniques prevent data frames from interfering with each other.

With XG-PON a service provider can of deliver shared Internet access rates up to 10 Gbps rates over existing passive optics. The standard includes an asymmetric and symmetric variant.

Asymmetric 10G-PON offers 10 Gbps downstream and 2.5 Gbps upstream, while symmetric 10G-PON with the working name of XG-PON2 offers 10 Gbps downstream and upstream. The one potential drawback is that the symmetrical variant would require more expense burst mode lasers on the ONTs to deliver the higher upstream speeds to consumers and businesses.

Why is it important? While still in a formative stage, a number of  large incumbent providers, including BT (NYSE: BT) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ), have done some preliminary trials of 10G-PON.

Perhaps driven by all of the hype surrounding Google Fiber's 1 Gbps roll out in Kansas City and the FCC's Gigabit City challenge, Link Hoewing, assistant vice president of Internet and Technology Issues for Verizon, proclaimed recently that they can deliver not only 1 Gbps, but even 10 Gbps whenever customers start demanding such speeds.

Hoewing's claims aren't all lip service, as the telco in 2009 and 2010 conducted two trials of asymmetric XG PON systems leveraging equipment from Huawei and Motorola, one of which was a consumer in Southern Massachusetts and the other a business customer in Taunton, Mass.

More recently, BT conducted a 10 Gbps trial last November with Cornwall-based engineering firm Arcol UK Ltd. During that trial BT ran the 10 Gbps service alongside the company's existing 330 Mbps service on the same fiber. However, BT was quick to point out that while the direct link between the Truro exchange that's connected to Arcol ran at 10 Gbps, "the company isn't connected to the wider internet at those speeds as there is nothing that can be done on the web with 10 Gbps."

Despite the long-term potential of XG-PON, today's reality is that outside of very large businesses or SMBs that have bandwidth-intensive needs, a 10G, never mind a 1 Gbps service, won't pertain to the everyday broadband consumer. Nonetheless, having a standard that can support these speeds means that service providers have a foundation from which to build when such speeds are required by their customers.