Nokia, Bell Canada stake claim with first 25G trial in North America

Nokia and Bell Canada teamed up to test next-generation fiber technology in the operator’s Advanced Technical Lab in Montreal, marking the first trial of 25G PON in North America.

The pair offered little technical detail about the trial in a press release announcing the milestone, other than stating it validated the idea that 25G can coexist with today’s GPON and XGS-PON technology on the same hardware.

The trial comes as Bell Canada works to expand its fiber network in the country, targeting 850,000 to 900,000 new passings by the end of 2021. In its Q3 2021 earnings release, Bell said it was on track to meet or exceed its goal.

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Jeffrey Maddox, president of Nokia Canada, told Fierce the collaboration “shows both Nokia and Bell’s appetite to be pushing the market to these new technologies, to help enable the ecosystem…to help drive technology innovation.” He added he believes its work with Bell is sign of things to come on the continent, noting the pandemic-related forces driving investments in fiber aren’t going to change overnight.

“We’re not all the sudden going to find everybody working back in an office and no dependence on just working from home. If anything, I think we’re going to see a generational investment” to meet changed consumer and business needs, he said. “Because we had to work from residences, I think that’s going to permanently change what gets done in-home and I think it’s going to force tier-ones and all network operators to use fiber access differently and more than they would have in the past.”

There has been some debate over whether 25G or 50G will be the next step up from XGS-PON. Maddox acknowledged the topic is complicated but said cost and deployment speed will factor into decisions on this front. He noted Nokia’s Quillion chipset – which can support GPON, XGS-PON and 25G PON – offers a lower barrier to entry to deliver faster speeds and will enable operators to “pull some of this higher bandwidth technology in sooner than some other options where you might find higher data rates.”

Nokia previously conducted 25G trials with Proxmius in Belgium and BT’s fiber subsidiary Openreach in the U.K. In the U.S., Frontier Communications recently tapped Nokia to supply an XGS-PON solution for its fiber expansion that is upgradable to 25G. At the time, Frontier said the ability to move to 25G was a key reason it selected Nokia’s technology.