Verizon Looks to Future-Proof its Access Network with NG-PON2
Verizon announced on Wednesday June 20, 2016 that is was initiating a 3-6 month lab trial of NG-PON2 technology at its Innovation Lab in Waltham, Massachusetts.
Lab testing will focus on several features of NG-PON2, including tuning performance, ability to carry residential and business services on the same platform, as well as interoperability and conformance testing to meet Verizon ONT specifications.
As part of this announcement, Verizon also stated that it was working with Ericsson (in partnership with Calix with Ericsson providing systems integration and back office work ) and ADTRAN. Neither vendor is currently an incumbent vendor at Verizon for its FiOS network. Incumbent vendors include (Nokia, Tellabs, Arris (via Motorola)).
According to Verizon, NG-PON2 is a natural evolution of its FTTx network, which started in 2004 with BPON and moved to GPON in 2007. Even based on this evolution, the network remains approximately 50% BPON and 50% GPON.
Verizon, who has been very active in the standards organizations related to NG-PON2, issued an RFI on the technology in 2014, followed by an RFP in October 2015. Six vendors responded to the RFP – with ADTRAN and Calix/Ericsson offering features and capabilities that proved to be attractive to Verizon.
Interoperability is Key
Verizon stated that the trial would focus significant attention on interoperability between the OLT and ONTs from multiple vendors. Verizon is expanding on the OMCI specification in hopes that it will eliminate the issues its had with its BPON/GPON implementation where it was held hostage to same vendor equipment for both the OLT and ONT. A key feature of its OMCI specification will be related to the amount of time (<50ms) for optics to tune to a different wavelength.
Another feature that garnered Verizon’s attention was related to wavelength bonding. Calix has demonstrated this capability, enabling the ONT to bond together 2 wavelengths (4 in the future) to effectively double the bandwidth available (20Gbps) to the end user. While this capability is not currently in the NG-PON2 specification, it will likely be added as an amendment in the near future.
Finally, both ADTRAN and Calix have been focusing considerable attending on implementing SDN principles into their access solutions – also proving attractive to Verizon.
Business First, Residential Second
The immediate target of NG-PON2 is to offer business services, which are expected in 2017. On today’s current GPON network, business services require a dedicated OLT – as to in order to meet SLA requirements. With NG-PON2, both residential and business services could be served from the same platform – via different wavelengths – offering platform optimization and better OPEX.
Although there is a desire to eventually offer residential services via NG-PON2, the cost of the solution needs to make sense. However, Verizon is actively working with both its trial partners and chip vendors to make this a reality within the next couple of years.
PON solutions have gone through a number of iterations over the years to address the need for additional bandwidth. One solution, now known as XGS-PON, offered symmetrical 10G capabilities. However, there has been little to no market demand for this solution. Per Verizon, the cost differential between XGS-PON and NG-PON2 is negligible. More importantly, XGS-PON does not offer the bandwidth capabilities of NG-PON2 – making it unattractive not only as a business services platform, but as an evolutionary technology for their network.
What about the incumbent vendors?
Perhaps the biggest shock of the lab trial announcement was the lack of mention of Nokia – who has been the leading incumbent solution provider for GPON to Verizon.
Does this mean they are out of the running for NG-PON2?
It’s doubtful considering their large embedded base of equipment. The same platform used for GPON is capable of supporting NG-PON2. However, the majority of GPON subscribers are residential versus business.
As such, this opens up potential new opportunities for both ADTRAN and Calix/Ericsson to deploy into different market segments – whether business services or even mobile/cell tower backhaul. And if both vendors should meet Verizon’s requirements in key areas (interoperability, scalability & wavelength tunability) – Nokia could be out of the running for this first round of deployments or act as a fall back vendor if one of the selected vendors is unable to fulfill timelines. It is also possible that Nokia could find itself as a Phase II vendor – as Verizon shifts some focus to the residential market at a later date.
Keep in mind, that Nokia was not selected as a vendor for the BPON build – instead it had to wait until GPON before it was selected – so anything is possible.
Nonetheless, kudos to both Calix and ADTRAN on their lab trial selections.