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What’s The Difference Between EPON And GPON Optical Fiber Networks?

What’s The Difference Between EPON And GPON Optical Fiber Networks?

EPON and GPON are popular versions of passive optical networks (PONs). These short-haul networks of fiber-optical cable are used for Internet access, voice over Internet protocol (VoIP), and digital TV delivery in metropolitan areas. Other uses include backhaul connections for cellular basestations, Wi-Fi hotspots, and even distributed antenna systems (DAS). The primary differences between them lie in the protocols used for downstream and upstream communications.



Passive Optical Networks

A PON is a fiber network that only uses fiber and passive components like splitters and combiners rather than active components like amplifiers, repeaters, or shaping circuits. Such networks cost significantly less than those using active components. The main disadvantage is a shorter range of coverage limited by signal strength. While an active optical network (AON) can cover a range to about 100 km (62 miles), a PON is typically limited to fiber cable runs of up to 20 km (12 miles). PONs also are called fiber to the home (FTTH) networks.


The term FTTx is used to state how far a fiber run is. In FTTH, x is for home. You may also see it called FTTP or fiber to the premises. Another variation is FTTB for fiber to the building. These three versions define systems where the fiber runs all the way from the service provider to the customer. In other forms, the fiber is not run all the way to the customer. Instead, it is run to an interim node in the neighborhood. This is called FTTN for fiber to the node. Another variation is FTTC, or fiber to the curb. Here too the fiber does not run all the way to the home. FTTC and FTTN networks may use a customer’s unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) copper telephone line to extend the services at lower cost. For example, a fast ADSL line carries the fiber data to the customer’s devices.


The typical PON arrangement is a point to multi-point (P2MP) network where a central optical line terminal (OLT) at the service provider’s facility distributes TV or Internet service to as many as 16 to 128 customers per fiber line (see the figure). Optical splitters, passive optical devices that divide a single optical signal into multiple equal but lower-power signals, distribute the signals to users. An optical network unit (ONU) terminates the PON at the customer’s home. The ONU usually communicates with an optical network terminal (ONT), which may be a separate box that connects the PON to TV sets, telephones, computers, or a wireless router. The ONU/ONT may be one device


In the basic method of operation for downstream distribution on one wavelength of light from OLT to ONU/ONT, all customers receive the same data. The ONU recognizes data targeted at each user. For the upstream from ONU to OLT, a time division multiplex (TDM) technique is used where each user is assigned a timeslot on a different wavelength of light. With this arrangement, the splitters act as power combiners. The upstream transmissions, called burst-mode operations, occur at random as a user needs to send data. The system assigns a slot as needed. Because the TDM method involves multiple users on a single transmission, the upstream data rate is always slower than the downstream rate.



GPON

Over the years, various PON standards have been developed. In the late 1990s, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) created the APON standard, which used the Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) for long-haul packet transmission. Since ATM is no longer used, a newer version was created called the broadband PON, or BPON. Designated as ITU-T G.983, this standard provided for 622 Mbits/s downstream and 155 Mbits/s upstream.


EPON

The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) developed another newer PON standard. Based on the Ethernet standard 802.3, EPON 802.3ah specifies a similar passive network with a range of up to 20 km. It uses WDM with the same optical frequencies as GPON and TDMA. The raw line data rate is 1.25 Gbits/s in both the downstream and upstream directions. You will sometimes hear the network referred to as Gigabit Ethernet PON or GEPON.

EPON is fully compatible with other Ethernet standards, so no conversion or encapsulation is necessary when connecting to Ethernet-based networks on either end. The same Ethernet frame is used with a payload of up to 1518 bytes. EPON does not use the CSMA/CD access method used in other versions of Ethernet. Since Ethernet is the primary networking technology used in local-area networks (LANs) and now in metro-area networks (MANs), no protocol conversion is needed.



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