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Has The Time For PON Arrived?

As market demand for broadband services continues to expand, vendors are rolling out Passive Optical Networking (PON) solutions to deliver higher-bandwidth connections to homes and businesses in the U.S. and abroad. More importantly, synergy between Ethernet and PON is leading to renewed interest in Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) and Fiber-to-the-Premise (FTTP) deployments. Ethernet passive optical networks (EPON) are catching on as an emerging access network technology that provides a low-cost method of deploying optical access lines between a carrier's central office (CO) and a customer site.

On the global market front, the International Telecommunication Union's (ITU) approval of protocol-agnostic G-PON (Gigabit PON) standards using GFP (generic framing protocol), has also given the technology a shot in the arm by ending a debate over the relative merits of ATM-PON (APON) vs. Ethernet-PON. Service providers can now use the technology that best suits their needs for specific networks or markets.

As a result of these developments, analysts at Probe Research are projecting demand for PON to grow at a 39.3 percent compound annual growth rate through 2008. Network equipment manufacturers are responding by developing technology to address the market opportunity. Among the more recent moves:

Centillium Communications announced late last month a collaboration with Japanese firm OF Networks Co., Ltd. to develop gigabit Ethernet Passive Optical Networks (GE-PON). The two firms initially are targeting FTTP applications for Japanese network and service providers. Plans call for OF to deliver GE-PON equipment based on Centillium's two EPON system-on-a-chip solutions: Colt and Mustang. The two processors provide an end-to-end solution for optical network units and optical line terminals.

IP access networking services firm UTStarcom also has recently announced a suite GE-PON products. The firm's carrier-class BBS 1000 family includes an optical line termination (OLT) system for the central office, providing a direct optical interface to the Ethernet/IP network core.

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