Comparing PON Technologies: Why DOCSIS® Provisioning is Key for 10G PON Interoperability and Cable MSO FTTH Deployment Scale

By: Vijay Raman, Vice President, Product Management
October 30, 2023

With consumers and businesses constantly clamoring for higher data speeds and the consumption of broadband services skyrocketing, Cable Operators are relying on Passive Optical Networking (PON) technologies to meet ever-spiking demand.  

For Cable Operators looking to deploy Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH), technology decisions often come down to comparing the two prominent PON standards: 10G-EPON using DPoE (DOCSIS® Provisioning of EPON), defined by CableLabs® and governed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and XGS-PON, regulated by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

Although both 10G-EPON and XGS-PON provide the exact same data throughput rate and high-speed connectivity, a closer look reveals significant differences that impact their ease and speed of deployment, flexibility, and customer experience. The pivotal differentiator, however, is interoperability between Optical Line Terminals (OLTs) and Optical Network Units (ONUs), which is crucial for seamless integration and multi-vendor implementations. That’s where DOCSIS Provisioning of 10G-EPON shines and, as a result, the vast majority of FTTH Cable MSO subscribers in North America are DOCSIS provisioned. 

10G-EPON offers a more flexible approach that aligns with the needs of Cable Operators today. With 10G-EPON and DPoE, operators have the flexibility to select from a wider range of OLT and ONU options, allowing for greater customization and adaptability. Thanks to rigorous CableLabs standards, operators can build FTTH services for subscribers on the same management infrastructure as traditional DOCSIS-based systems while streamlining deployment and facilitating a faster transition to higher capacity service speeds. 

 In contrast, XGS-PON often necessitates the purchase of customer premises equipment (CPE) and OLT equipment from the same manufacturer, limiting flexibility and—the key to it all—interoperability. It turns out XGS-PON has a lot of improvement needed to support multi-vendor interoperable OLT and ONU solutions. Despite the BBF.247 GPON/XGSPON ONU Interoperability Certification program, today nearly all XGS-PON deployments are single vendor and OLT/ONU bookended. 

 As validation of the efficiency and cost savings 10G-EPON, DPoE, and the overall advantages interoperability driven by CableLabs has provided, it’s interesting to note that CableLabs has just started a working group focused on you guessed it provisioning, interoperability, and integration, among other things. It seems that Cable Operators who have tested or deployed XGS-PON have recognized a need for improvement and are asking for CableLabs to improve upon some pain points. 

Cable Operators have an expectation of multi-vendor interoperability. The ability to work seamlessly with any number of third-party ONUs and leverage existing back-office systems makes 10G-EPON and DPoE the optimal choice today for Cable Operators looking to deploy FTTH cost effectively and quickly. Until a CableLabs standard is defined and implemented to bring consistent multi-vendor interoperability to ITU PON, Cable Operators can easily deploy FTTH services with 10G-EPON today, and throughout the decade, flexibly and cost effectively with service agility at scale. 

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