Verizon VP: NG-PON2 will make future fiber upgrades easier

Verizon bucked an industry trend when it decided to go with NG-PON2 rather than XGS-PON for its next-generation fiber upgrade, but an operator executive told Fierce that call will make its life easier for years to come by both simplifying the network and easing its upgrade path.

While XGS-PON offers 10-gig capabilities, NG-PON2 provides four 10-gig wavelengths that can be used individually or combined to offer up to 40-gigs. Though most other operators have opted to upgrade from GPON to XGS-PON, Verizon made the call a few years back to pursue NG-PON2 with equipment vendor Calix. It is now using NG-PON2 for a residential deployment of symmetrical multi-gig fiber service in New York City. Kevin Smith, VP of technology for Verizon’s fiber program, said onlookers should expect it to dramatically ramp deployments of the technology over the next couple of years.

According to Smith, Verizon chose NG-PON2 for a number of reasons. First, because it offers the ability to use and combine four different wavelengths, Smith said it provides a “really elegant way to comingle business and residential services on a single platform” and manage a range of different demand points. For instance, it can use the same NG-PON2 system to serve 2 Gbps fiber to residential customers, 10 Gbps to business customers and even 10-gig fronthaul to its cell sites.

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Smith noted NG-PON2 also features an integrated broadband network gateway (BNG) capability for subscriber management which “allows us to get one of the routers that we use today in GPON out of the network.”

“It’s one less point in the network that you have to manage,” he explained. “Certainly there’s cost implications to it and overall it makes it more cost effective to continue to add capacity to the network over time because you have fewer elements in the path.”

Speaking of adding capacity, Smith said that while NG-PON2 today allows it to tap four 10-gig channels, there are actually a total of eight channels which will ultimately be available to the operator over time. Though the standards for these additional channels are still being set, they could potentially include options like four 25-gig channels or four 50-gig channels.

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Either way, Smith said it’s “not unreasonable” to assume that its NG-PON2 system will eventually be scalable to at least 100-gigs. Thus, even though it’s more expensive upfront than XGS-PON, Smith said NG-PON2 is worth it. “Our expectation is we don’t have to do this kind of forklift upgrade again to overlay the next PON system. We’ll do this once to get this capability and it’ll make our life simpler for a very, very long time,” he stated.

Other benefits of NG-PON2 include the ability to automatically switch users to another wavelength if the one they’re using goes down and dynamically manage subscribers to isolate high-bandwidth users on their own wavelength to avoid congestion, he added.

The VP said Verizon is just kicking off its deployments of NG-PON2 for Fios at scale and expects to dramatically increase the number of NG-PON2 units it consumes on an annual basis in the next couple of years. So far it has not encountered supply chain issues, he said.

Eventually, it plans to overlay its entire Fios footprint with the upgraded capability.

“GPON has been a workhorse, it has been great. One gigabit symmetrical speeds haven’t been out there all that long…and especially with Covid people are stepping up into those speeds. So, now is the logical time for us to look to this next evolution in access,” he concluded.