Which is the right technology?

To choose the right technology for a FTTH deployment is key in order to obtain a valid business model.

When we plan to deploy FTTH, before we start thinking about whether we will go aerial, canalized or using rights of way, we need to choose the access technology.

The first decision is whether FTTN or FTTH, which is to run fiber to an intermediate access node or all the way to the home. Future is fiber, so although some may argue that now FTTN might be less expensive in some brownfield cases, if we are looking for a future-proof platform, FTTH is the only answer.

Once we know that we are deploying FTTH, the next decision is whether go active or passive. Active FTTH solutions have a nice feature: they use mature technologies. Basic Ethernet switching, which is really inexpensive. However, if you have a moderately large deployment, this means installing access switches in your outside plant which is not the most economic solution in terms of OPEX, as remote nodes with active equipment will be deployed and this means maintenance costs. Also, scalability is reduced as requires actions in the outside plant when for instance, a data rate upgrade is performed.

For me, passive solutions are the best option. This is, to run a fiber to each home, in a point-to-point (P2P) model or use a Passive Optical Network (PON) approach, distributing a single optical fiber among several users by splitting the signal using passive optical splitters.

When we compare  P2P and PON, the PON model is much more suitable for the residential market, due to the low scalability of P2P, specially when a lot of connections are required. P2P may still be valid for industrial and business customers with high transmission requirements (<1Gbps) but for the present market.

Differences between P2P and PONs can be summarized as follows:

  • P2P offer the greatest bandwidth capabilities but their CAPEX are too high at present (many splices, big cables, difficult to manage fibers)
  • PONs offer a balanced bandwidth choice together with a reduced CAPEX so are more convenient, specially to find a viable business model

I am not talking about regulation or political issues… and try to be just technical.

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