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Deciding between passive optical networks and active optical networks

Fiber expert David Hashman details the key design and other elements to consider when deciding whether to deploy a passive optical network (PON) or an active optical network (AON).

What are the key design criteria for deciding whether to deploy passive optical networks (PON) or active optical networks (AON)? Can the two technologies be collocated from the same local exchange?

When deciding between a PON or an AON, it is important to consider what services are going to be delivered over the network, the overall network topology and who the primary customer will be. If, for example, radio frequency video services will be deployed, then a PON is typically the only practical solution. If all services are Internet Protocol-based, however, either a PON or an AON could be appropriate. If there are longer distances involved and providing power and cooling to active components in the field could pose a problem, then a PON may be the best choice. Alternatively, if the target customer is commercial or if the project involves multiple dwelling units, then an AON may be a better fit.

Both PONs and AONs can be supported from the same local exchange. Usually, the only consideration is whether they will share the same fiber infrastructure. If they will, then the fiber design must accommodate separate point-to-point fiber for the AON that do not run through a PON splitter. In some deployments, it may make sense to centralize the PON splitters at the local exchange. While this increases the fiber count in the field, it allows any fiber to be used interchangeably in either a PON or AON application as future needs dictate.

This was last published in December 2010

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