50G PON gear may appear sooner than expected, driven by 5G

Huawei showed prototype equipment to support 50G PON fiber technology – which will be important for 5G transport networks – at Mobile World Congress. Work started on standards for 50Gbps passive optical network (PON) a year ago in the ITU-T group, and should be completed in 2020, but mainstream commercial products had not been expected until 2023.

The Chinese company may be shortening that timescale, partly in response to the needs of 5G. This is not just about the increased bandwidth requirements of future networks, which will put strain on existing backhaul and fronthaul solutions, but about the need to support a wide variety of network behaviors and use cases, which will need an agile, software-defined transport system.

With 50G PON, operators do not just get a fivefold increase in bandwidth for delivering video or backhauling 5G, but greater flexibility to reduce latency dramatically and enable a wide variety of use cases. The latter is done by optimizing clock synchronization and data processing at each end of the PON.

“Compared with 10G PON, the 50G PON technology not only increases the bandwidth fivefold, but also effectively supports innovative services such as 5G and Cloud VR, services which pose strict requirements on delay and clock synchronization,” said Huawei. In its demo in Barcelona, the vendor said the upstream one-way delay was reduced from the millisecond level down to the microsecond level while achieving 10 times better clock precision.

The cable industry has also been working on R&D centered on 50G PON and other high speed solutions. At January’s Consumer Electronics Show, three organizations set out a roadmap to a high speed cable future, with 5G backhaul and fronthaul among the applications in mind to supplement the core broadband use case.

In setting out the roadmap, to start in 2020, the trio – the Internet & Television Association, US R&D outfit CableLabs, and Cable Europe – even adopted a new branding, ‘10G’.

The foundations for 10G networks were mainly laid some time ago and these will not result in a single technology but a network comprising multiple technologies. “It’s the cable broadband technology platform that can handle more data from more devices, 10 times faster than today’s fastest cable broadband networks,” wrote CableLabs’ president and CEO, Phil McKinney.

The full list of these technologies includes:

  • 25G-PON and 50G-PON
  • FDX (full duplex)
  • point-to-point coherent optics
  • DOCSIS 3.1, the latest release of the cable standard, along with FDX DOCSIS and low latency DOCSIS
  • Micronets
  • Various WiFi technologies, namely WiFi Easy Mesh, Passpoint, Vantage and WiFi PNM (proactive network maintenance)
  • Low latency mobile backhaul.