Commscope touts RFoG as interim step for cable's PON FTTH, IP video migrations

NEW ORLEANS -- RF over Glass (RFoG) may have gotten a bad rap from some industry watchers, but Commscope says that it will give cable MSOs an interim solution as they migrate to FTTH and IP-based video.

It is a deep-fiber network design in which the coax portion of the HFC network is replaced by a single-fiber passive optical network (PON).

What's compelling for cable operators is they can potentially curb costs because the technology leverages the same back office capabilities and network equipment of an existing DOCSIS system. Cable operators can continue to use their embedded back office applications with the new fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) deployments.

"People have been trying to say, 'what's the value of RFoG in that I am not going to get any more bandwidth than I get with HFC,'" said Ric Johnsen, SVP of broadband business unit for Commscope, in an interview with FierceTelecom. "Well, they're realizing it's a migration technology that allows you to take your fiber infrastructure deep while still provisioning it with your DOCSIS services that you have been doing over HFC for years."

Johnsen added that cable MSOs could also potentially upsell customers more bandwidth and other capabilities as they equip more homes with fiber.

"Being optical to the home now, you now can branch off and migrate to PON in a very strategic manner of adding more homes as subscribers requires more bandwidth you can upsell capability and still support your back office," Johnsen said. "RFoG is a nice bridge to allow them to work through this evolution path."

Another area that RFoG could address is the cable industry's migration from RF to IP-based video services. The reality today is that the IP-based head ends and associated equipment aren't mature enough to deliver such services throughout their networks yet.

RFoG can allow cable operators to migrate to IP-based video over time.

"They have a pretty big content library that they have to deliver to their consumers today and not lose that user experience and trying to switch it all is a huge technical challenge," Johnsen said. "Allowing them to maintain that content delivered over the digital RF platform that exists today while enhancing their voice and data network with a PON offering is a balanced approach to creating a step across as IP matures."

One cable MSO that sees value in RFoG is Comcast, which is in the midst of rolling out 2 Gbps service throughout its territory via a mix of fiber and HFC-based technologies like the upcoming DOCSIS 3.1 standard.

During a Tuesday afternoon panel at the SCTE Cable-Tec trade show, Jorge Salinger, VP of access for Comcast said that RFoG and other deep fiber technologies will complement its movement into DOCSIS 3.1, for example.

"We're starting to deploy PON, and doing that in a way that is beyond trials at this point, and using RFoG as needed," Salinger said. "In some cases, since we don't have a complete IP video offering, we have to deploy RFoG as an interim step."

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