Adtran says NG-PON2 could play a role in 5G backhaul, fronthaul

5G (Flickr user Kārlis Dambrāns)
Adtran's CEO says NG-PON2 could have an impact on future 5G backhaul networks (Adtran).

As Adtran moves through Verizon’s NG-PON2 field trials, the vendor says that the technology could play a key role in supporting backhaul and fronthaul for it and other wireless operators' pending 5G wireless rollouts.

While he could not offer specifics about how Verizon will ultimately apply NG-PON2 in its network, Tom Stanton told investors during its fourth-quarter earnings call that it has applicability in next-generation backhaul and fronthaul networks.

Tom Stanton, Adtran
Tom Stanton

“I think initially you will see it being deployed kind of in the trial phase, just to make sure everything is worked out in different markets for different business customers and maybe some replenishment of traditional GPON,” Stanton said during the earnings call, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript. “But I think the longer-term goal and aspiration for the technology for this customer, without speaking for the customer, is that it can play a role in their 5G network rollout because of the capabilities.”

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Stanton added that NG-PON2 “is fantastic for that type of rollout.”

The prospect of Verizon using NG-PON2 along with straight dark fiber solutions makes sense as an additional option.

NG-PON2’s architecture is  capable of total network throughput of 40 Gbps, corresponding to up to 10 Gbps of symmetric upstream/downstream speeds.

Verizon has been building a sizable fiber network to support current 4G and upcoming 5G wireless services via a three-pronged build-out strategy: leasing fiber from other providers, building fiber and acquiring regional and national providers like XO Communications.

Adtran has a large stake in seeing Verizon be successful with NG-PON2. 

Following an RFP process after the ITU-T issued the NG-PON2 standard in 2015, Verizon tested NG-PON2 equipment from Ericsson (in partnership with Calix) and Adtran. Adtran and Ericsson/Calix were chosen out of a group of six vendors that competed in the RFP.

By adopting NG-PON2, Verizon wants to have a common architecture that can simultaneously support business and consumer customers on various optical wavelengths via a single fiber. 

Because XGS-PON and 10G-PON standards are designed to only support a single wavelength, Verizon is concerned that it would not be able to parse out residential and business traffic.   

However, Stanton would not reveal how the NG-PON2 trials with Verizon are going other than to say that they are proceeding as planned.

“Our expectations haven’t changed,” Stanton said. “We still have a lot of work that we’re doing with them. We have not slowed down the R&D associated with that project.”

Stanton added that Adtran still must meet timelines set by the service provider.

“We have some specific lab dates that we need to meet in both this quarter and the next quarter, and we would expect to see shipments really kind of potentially starting in the second half,” Stanton said.