IEEE EPON over coax standards work kicks off

Dec. 5, 2011
Those in the optical communications industry who believed an eventual move to 10G EPON would trigger massive fiber builds for cable MSOs might want to reconsider. The IEEE has announced work on a new physical layer (PHY) standard to run EPON protocols transparently over coax distribution networks.

Those in the optical communications industry who believed an eventual move to 10G EPON would trigger massive fiber builds for cable MSOs might want to reconsider. The IEEE has announced work on a new physical layer (PHY) standard to run EPON protocols transparently over coax distribution networks.

As its name implies, the newly formed IEEE 802.3 EPON Protocol over Coax (EPoC) Study Group could open the door for cable MSOs to use EPON to boost the bandwidth capacity of their existing hybrid fiber/coax networks. Such a capability would obviate the need to run fiber to the home (FTTH) or business to take advantage of EPON’s benefits.

It also would enable service providers of all types to use EPON in multi-tenant and multiple dwelling unit (MDU) applications to provide services directly to individual units without first converting to a copper-based technology, such as VDSL2, or running fiber within the building.

“Operating EPON transparently over coax is a significant step forward. It will help to transform the industry by greatly simplifying operator networks while simultaneously offering subscribers easy and efficient access to dramatically increased bandwidth,” said Howard Frazier, chair, IEEE 802.3 EPoC Study Group and senior technical director, Broadcom Corp.

Broadcom has already brought a DOCSIS EPoC chip to market that is being used for equipment aimed at the Chinese market. Meanwhile, EPoC was mentioned several times on the SCTE Cable-Tec exhibition floor in November as a potential successor or complement to DOCSIS in cable MSO networks. The IEEE notes that EPON has enjoyed wide deployment, particularly in Asia. In fact, technology developers have shipped more EPON ports than any other IEEE 802.3 technology defined in the last 10 years, the IEEE asserts.

The IEEE therefore expects EPoC to prove popular. “This effort is an industry pull, not a technology push,” said David Law, chair, IEEE 802.3 Working Group and distinguished engineer, HP Networking. “We are pleased with the enthusiastic reaction we’ve received from industry who have turned to the IEEE specifically to investigate the potential for using the IEEE 802.3 EPON protocol on existing coaxial cable networks.”

The IEEE 802.3 EPoC Study Group initially will do just that – study. It will investigate market demand, network compatibility considerations, and available technologies for an EPoC PHY specification. The study group will meet for the first time in January 2012, with the expectation that results from the investigation could be completed by July 2012.

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