There’s a lot of 10G PON on the horizon

March 30, 2022
Our survey revealed that 81% of service provider respondents worldwide plan 10G fiber technology deployments within the next two years.

The incoming tide of government funding worldwide bodes well for fiber broadband in general. And a recent survey conducted by Lightwave, the Fiber Broadband Association (FBA), and Lightwave sister site Broadband Technology Report (BTR) suggests that 10G technology will benefit from this crest over at least the next two years as well. Our survey revealed that 81% of service provider respondents worldwide plan 10G fiber technology deployments in that timeframe. The overwhelming majority of these deployments will use some form of 10G PON technology, but Active Ethernet will continue to have its adherents.

The survey also elicited insights into the drivers for 10G all-fiber roll outs, the factors used to evaluate technology suppliers, and how much respondents plan to spend. While the results overall were fairly consistent among provider types and geographical locations, some important differences mean that one size of all-fiber 10G definitely won’t fit all.

A widespread interest in 10G fiber broadband

Lightwave conducted the survey in 2021 on behalf of the FBA and BTR; survey recipients included select members for the FBA as well as the audiences of the two networking information brands. More than 300 people responded, including 158 people employed at communications services providers. Slightly more than 66% of these respondents work for companies that serve fewer than 100,000 subscribers. Yet only 37% of the total respondents said that more than half of their customers live in rural areas.

All demographics showed strong Interest in 10G fiber broadband – 70% of respondents revealed they already have some form of fiber-based 10G technology in their networks. This interest derives from several sources. Overall, 76.5% of respondents cited the desire to increase the service speeds they can offer as a reason for their 10G technology interest, followed most closely by competitive differentiation at almost 55.5%. Other drivers cited included:

  • The ability to serve new customer segments (45.8%)
  • The chance to roll out new services (37.6%)
  • The ability to serve more subscribers per port (33.7%)
  • A desire to support 5G mobile services (31.8%).

These catalysts will drive new 10G deployments as well as footprint expansion. The 81% of respondents with 10G deployment plans include 26.6% who expect to begin roll outs for the first time in the next two years, 35.4% who plan to add to existing deployments, and 19% who anticipate completion of existing initiatives. Only 15.2% indicated they have no plans to deploy 10G optical access systems; 3.8% of respondents said they didn’t know their company’s plans.

Respondents who work for companies with 10G plans with which they are familiar expressed a strong preference for XGS-PON technology. Just over 56% selected XGS-PON, compared to 22.7% for Active Ethernet or some other form of point-to-point infrastructure, 13.4% for 10G-EPON, and 5.8% for NG-PON2.

And respondents plan to spend a significant amount of money on these deployments. Of those with 10G deployment plans with knowledge of their companies’ budgets, 31.2% estimated they’ll spend between $100,000 and $1 million and 37.5% said they’ll spend more than $1 million. A healthy percentage, 17%, said they expect to spend more than $5 million. A total of 31% said they’ll spend $100,000 or less on their 10G roll outs.

10G for rural subscribers

With rural subscribers an important target for government funding, respondents with at least 50% of their customers in this category present an intriguing demographic within the survey. Almost 66% said they have some form of 10G in their networks, only slightly behind the average for all respondents. However, 45% of such survey participants said that less than 10% of their networks currently are 10G enabled (a percentage that includes those who don’t have any 10G), leaving significant room for additional deployments; only 7% reported that more than half of their network footprint supports 10G.

Regardless of how much 10G is in their networks already, rural operators in general indicated that such technology is in the cards, with 78% reporting that they plan to roll out 10G technology over the next two years. The deployment drivers for these deployments roughly follow those described above for survey respondents as a whole. Just over 38% of those with deployment plans said they expect to spend at least $1 million on 10G technology.

Geographic differences

Most of the interesting geographic-based differences in 10G fiber broadband interest occurred between the Americas and Europe. The survey definitely drew the attention of European 10G adherents; 80% of European respondents reported having 10G in some part of their fiber networks, compared with 69% of respondents from either North or Latin America. However, the Americas are poised to catch up in the next two years. Of operators on the western side of the Atlantic, only 13% said they have no 10G fiber broadband technology deployments on tap over the next 24 months, while nearly twice that number (25%) of their counterparts in Europe reported having no 10G plans.

European respondents also expressed stronger interest in XGS-PON than those from the Americas. XGS-PON garnered support from 76.6% of European operators. This technology was popular among respondents from the Americas as well with 54%. However, Active Ethernet and other point-to-point options also garnered strong support (25% in the Americas versus 18% in Europe). Neither demographic signaled strong support for 10G EPON, although there was a bit more interest in the Americas (16% versus 6% in Europe).

How operators will select 10G technology suppliers

Not surprisingly, our survey respondents said that performance (77%) and reliability (73%) topped the list of criteria when evaluating 10G fiber broadband technology options. Past history with a supplier (67%) and company reputation (58%) also proved important factors.

Among operators with large rural subscriber bases, past history with a supplier was overwhelmingly the most important criterion, cited by 82% of respondents. Equipment reliability (74%) and performance (72%) followed, in reverse order of their citations among survey respondents overall. Conversely, the ability to help with funding or navigating government grant programs isn’t much of a selling point among operators, including rural ones. Only 12% of primarily rural-serving respondents cited help with funding as important and only 14% named the ability to help with government funding proposals.

10G fiber broadband technology to remain a strong market

The survey results clearly show worldwide interest in 10G fiber broadband technology, an interest that will last over the next two years at least. Rural operators appear to be early adopters, although there is plenty of room in their networks for more systems. These systems likely will support XGS-PON technology, although Active Ethernet and other point-to-point approaches will generate strong interest as well in the Americas.

Operators whose subscriber base is at least 50% rural value past history with a supplier as the most important criterion when making a technology buying decision, which indicates fiber broadband equipment suppliers should be hopeful of future business from such companies on their client list – provided that they treat them well.

STEPHEN HARDY is editorial director of Lightwave.

About the Author

Stephen Hardy | Editorial Director and Associate Publisher, Lightwave

Stephen Hardy is editorial director and associate publisher of Lightwave and Broadband Technology Report, part of the Lighting & Technology Group at Endeavor Business Media. Stephen is responsible for establishing and executing editorial strategy across the both brands’ websites, email newsletters, events, and other information products. He has covered the fiber-optics space for more than 20 years, and communications and technology for more than 35 years. During his tenure, Lightwave has received awards from Folio: and the American Society of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) for editorial excellence. Prior to joining Lightwave in 1997, Stephen worked for Telecommunications magazine and the Journal of Electronic Defense.

Stephen has moderated panels at numerous events, including the Optica Executive Forum, ECOC, and SCTE Cable-Tec Expo. He also is program director for the Lightwave Innovation Reviews and the Diamond Technology Reviews.

He has written numerous articles in all aspects of optical communications and fiber-optic networks, including fiber to the home (FTTH), PON, optical components, DWDM, fiber cables, packet optical transport, optical transceivers, lasers, fiber optic testing, and more.

You can connect with Stephen on LinkedIn as well as Twitter.

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