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  Intercomms Issue 18
Issue 18 Articles

Fiber Access: G-PON Certification
Drives a New Wave of Deployment

By Robin Mersh, CEO, Broadband Forum

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Robin Mersh, Chief Executive Officer, Broadband Forum
Robin Mersh, Chief Executive Officer, Broadband Forum

Robin Mersh joined the Broadband Forum as Chief Operating Officer in July 2006, and was promoted to Chief Executive Officer in July 2010. Robin has worked in the telecommunications industry for over 18 years, starting at Cable & Wireless and then moving on to BT. Robin has worked in business development and alliance management for various OSS software companies in the United States, mainly in network and service provisioning and activation, where he negotiated and managed several large OEM agreements. Originally from Cambridge in the United Kingdom, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors from Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London in 1992.

In markets worldwide, consumer and enterprise demand for bandwidth-hungry content and information services continues to escalate rapidly. This demand translates into the on-going expansion of the global broadband access base in general, and of fiber connectivity in particular. According to the latest data prepared for the Broadband Forum by research house Point Topic, while digital subscriber line (DSL) remains the dominant broadband access technology, hybrid fiber/DSL deployments (FTTx/hybrid) show the largest percentage growth, with 69% overall recorded in the past year.

Charge of the light brigade

Though legacy copper networks can be upgraded via vectoring, bundling and rolling out high speed DSL options like VDSL2plus and ADSL2, optical technology easily supports the super-fast broadband speeds needed to satisfy bandwidth demands in the foreseeable future. For reasons of economy and due to the need to amortize investments in existing infrastructure, hybrid deployments of copper and optical technologies are expected to be a prominent feature of broadband network expansion going forward for at least the next five years. One forecast from the Global Industry Analysts firm had the global PON equipment market being worth $7.62 billion by 2015.

For service providers Gigabit PON (G-PON) is a particularly attractive flavor of the PON family in terms of the total bandwidth and the bandwidth efficiency it offers. Typical G-PON downstream exchange-to-user speeds are 2.4 Gbits/s, with 1.2 Gbits/s supported in the opposite upstream direction. Each G-PON fiber can support 16, 32, 64 and up to 128 users. G-PON has a range of at least 20 km, with up to 60 km possible. G-PON also scores in terms of its end-to-end manageability. The carrier grade, full service access technology not only supports a multi-play repertoire for delivery to end users, but can also be deployed for mobile backhauling applications. G-PON is standardized by the ITU.T as the G.984 family of Recommendations.

Certification is key

What previously slowed the wider uptake of G-PON was a lack of interoperability between OLT and ONUs. By the same token, what will undoubtedly boost the wider adoption of G-PON is certification of G-PON network products to guarantee quality of service (QoS) and enable interoperability between different vendors’ solutions. A comprehensive and universally-recognized compliance and interoperability certification program is regarded as the bedrock on which to expand market penetration and future network development for this all-important enabling technology.

The G-PON certification has a number of other pluses, some generic, others specific to G-PON. Certification gives service providers worldwide total confidence in the quality, and therefore the competitiveness of their vendor equipment selection. Network planning and installation is simplified, and maintenance and support costs reduced. Certification to a standard norm means equipment and system vendors can address a larger overall market. Meantime, the end user experience is improved, and consumers can benefit from lower costs and speedier roll-out of superfast broadband.

Specific to the G-PON proposition, certification of G-PON creates the basis for the rapid creation of a certification process within next generation technology such as XG-PON1. Certification within G-PON will additionally make the rollout of technology such as XG-PON1 a much smoother transition – without the initial issues that had to be overcome in the early stages of G-PON itself.

To drive this push for interoperability, the Broadband Forum is at the forefront of G-PON testing and certification. Since 2009 the Broadband Forum has collaborated with the Full Service Access Network (FSAN) on interoperability testing plugfests on the physical, transmission convergence and upper layers for G-PON. This collaboration is a great success, FSAN leading on the physical, transmission convergence layers studies and Broadband Forum leading upper layers studies.

In April 2010, collaboration between the Broadband Forum and the FSAN intensified with the launch of a new initiative focused on expediting G-PON deployments, promoting multi-vendor interoperability and enabling better broadband network fiber integration around the world. To accomplish these goals, a new working group known as the Fiber Access Networks working group was established. This body is focused on developing technical specifications related to Optical Access Nodes and associated test plans for conformance and inter-vendors interoperability. It convenes at each of the Broadband Forum’s quarterly meetings.

More recently, in September 2011, the Broadband Forum released its PON roadmap Technical Report referred to as BroadbandSuite™ 5.0. The new release brings together into one suite the range of fiber-related work that the Broadband Forum had been carrying out in its Fiber Access Networks working group, working closely with the FSAN, with the aim of enhancing multi-vendor interoperability as well as PON device management. This development will increasingly allow service providers to build their fiber networks with confidence in product conformance and interoperability, allowing for greater flexibility in product selection and empowering more feature-rich deployments. At the same time, these new specifications provided equipment manufacturers with the measure and means to easily and cost-effectively verify and promote their products that meet market-driven global standards.

Speaking at the BroadbandSuite™ 5.0 launch, Chairman of Technology Steering Committee of China Telecommunications Corporation Mr Leping Wei noted: “G-PON interoperability is critical for mass deployment in the Chinese market and China is already the largest and fastest growing market for broadband. The [Broadband Forum] G-PON Certification will certainly enable us to accelerate the widespread availability of faster broadband. With the Chinese market moving towards an estimated 250 million subscriber lines by 2015 and a household penetration of 50%, China Telecom sees G-PON and the advent of certified G-PON products as an important step in making this a reality.”

First movers

By October 2011 the broadband Forum was able to announce that seven products from seven vendors had achieved certification against the Broadband Forum’s G-PON ONU (Optical Network Unit) Certification Program (BBF.247 certification). The seven vendors whose products achieved these, the world’s first G-PON certifications, were Alcatel-Lucent, Broadlight, Cambridge Industries Group, Huawei, PMC-Sierra, PT Inovação and Tecom.

At that point in time, enrollment in the certification program opened to G-PON ONU products with Ethernet interfaces and is based on the Broadband Forum’s BBF.247 test plan. This tests conformance to TR-156, which is a document that provides guidelines on how a G-PON local loop can be integrated into the IP access aggregation platform. It uses the Optical Network Terminal (ONT) Management and Control Interface (OMCI) as defined in the ITU G.988. These are the most critical standards to interoperable implementations.

By December 2011 the original seven certified vendors were joined by China’s ZTE, the first vendor to achieve certification following the introduction of open enrolment.

“We welcome the Certification and are delighted to be among the first to achieve this important step,” commented ZTE executives Zhang Hongjuan and Peng Qiang. “With Broadband Forum Certification we can be sure that our R&D investment in next generation PON technologies - both G-PON and beyond - are in line with market requirements and service providers’ expectations.”

Light years ahead

The testing efforts continue at the Broadband Forum with new work addressing ONT to OLT interoperability, the addition of new modules to the ONU Certification, and a suite of new work addressing the latest ITU-T PON standard, XG-PON1. A key characteristic of the new standard- XG-PON1 offers backwards compatibility with G-PON, nominal data rates of 10 Gbits/s downstream and 2.5 Gbits/s upstream, a reach of up to 60 km, and full service support, including voice, TDM, Ethernet up to Gigabit rates, xDSL and backhaul. XG-PON1 is standardized by the ITU.T as the G.987 family of Recommendations.

With major G-PON deployments ongoing in every region by operators such as AT&T, Verizon, British Telecom, Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom Orange, Telecom Italia, BSNL, Etisalat, SingTel, China Telecom and China Unicom, the Broadband Forum G-PON Certification Program is sure to have a positive impact on driving higher and faster penetration of high speed broadband to more customers. The Broadband Forum is at the forefront of the certification drive of fiber and DSL options, and stands committed to expedite the growth of broadband networks worldwide.

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