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Vodafone Group looks to the future of Gigabit-capable fibre broadband

6 Apr 2017Technology news
3 minute read

Vodafone has been leading the creation of a new 10 year roadmap for the development of fibre broadband technology to support the introduction of 5G and the creation of Gigabit societies in Europe.

Vodafone is Europe’s fastest growing broadband company and has over 14 million fixed broadband customers in 16 countries around the world.

True fibre networks are needed to support the growing economic importance of digital products and services and 5G networks will rely on fibre to connect base stations to the core network.

At the end of last year the Full Service Access Network (FSAN) forum for broadband access, which is co-chaired by Vodafone, published its Roadmap for optical fibre broadband for the next decade.

A new roadmap is a significant milestone for a body that started only 20 years ago and designed the Gigabit-capable passive optical network (GPON) technology that is now dominating Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) deployments worldwide.

The roadmap incorporates the latest recommendations from the International Telecom Union’s standardisation sector (ITU-T G.9807.1, G.989 series), for operators to provide single or multiple symmetrical 10 Gigabits per second (Gbps) capability over a legacy fibre infrastructure.

The new standards roadmap emphasises a smooth evolution from previously standardised, and deployed, PON systems through extensive re-use of the existing fibre infrastructure.

The roadmap will move operators towards using a technology called NG-PON2 that can deliver up to 8 x 10 Gbps symmetrical speed fibre, which is needed for 5G and also to meet the projected demand for services from enterprise customers.

Planned system enhancements over the next decade include enhanced flexibility and providing the peak service rates beyond 10 Gbps needed to make the Gigabit society a reality.

One obvious way the existing PONs can be evolved is to adopt 25-gigabit wavelengths. This would enable a 25-gigabit symmetrical extension to a single wavelength and a future TWDM-PON variant with up to 200 gigabits of capacity if the full eight wavelengths are used. One application that could use such high capacities is mobile fronthaul.

In December, we made a good start to using symmetrical 10 Gbps technology with a first open testing day for operators, co-organised by the FSAN Group and the Broadband Forum.

The event saw involvement from many leading telecom equipment vendors.

The FSAN roadmap is a key tool to help guide the wider industry and will serve as a stimulus for future standardisation and technology development in the related organisations, such as ITU-T, Broadband Forum, and IEEE.

The development and deployment of fibre technology will also have a key role in supporting the technology building blocks of the Gigabit society including: software defined networking; network function virtualisation; 5G; the internet of things; and the convergence of networks and services.

The new PON Standards Roadmap is available from the FSAN website.

Peter Dawes is co-chair of the Next Generation PON Task Group at FSAN. He has worked for Vodafone’s Group Technology division since 1999.

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