The benefits of GPON for operators and consumers

by Stuart Hardy, Business Unit Manager of EOH’s Carrier and Network Solutions Division
Bandwidth demand and consumption has increased exponentially over recent years. This has been driven by a mutually reinforcing loop of usage and enablement: the development of technologies like streaming HDTV creates a demand for more bandwidth – and as soon as more bandwidth becomes available, even more bandwidth-intensive technologies are rolled out, and so on and on.

So there is a constant need to provide higher speed and higher capacity bandwidth to businesses and home consumers – as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.

Enter the latest contender: Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON).

How does GPON work?

GPON is an access method that provides fibre connectivity (currently the fastest fixed line medium) using point-to-multipoint technology. Its defining feature is that it uses passive splitters in the fibre network so that a single fibre line from the service provider can deliver connectivity to multiple premises. Whereas an active Ethernet network uses physical, electrically powered switches that open and close to send signals to different premises, GPON does not rely on electrically powered switches. The optical splitters simply separate the fibre signal – electrically powered equipment is only required at the initial transmission and final reception points of the signal.

The advantages of GPON

GPON offers a number of advantages over active Ethernet for both providers and consumers…

Less physical equipment required

It’s obvious that GPON reduces the reliance on and cost of physical equipment in the fibre distribution network. No physical switches are necessary, and because a single fibre can be split into many different signals, less fibre is required in the network. A GPON network is thus cheaper and quicker to construct. As an illustration, the cabling and splitters of a typical GPON costs 40-50% less than copper access lines.

Lower maintenance requirements

Allied to the above point is the fact that having less physical equipment means that the network is less susceptible to physical equipment failure, and requires less physical equipment maintenance. There is less that can go wrong with a network that mostly relies on completely passive components.

More bandwidth, delivered more efficiently

GPON offers higher bandwidth delivery – it has a 2.4 Gbps downstream capacity and a 1.2 Gbps upstream capacity. It uses larger, variable length packets to transmit data and employs frame segmentation to give higher quality for voice and video traffic.

The passive optical splitters provide higher efficiency by allowing each fibre optic strand to be split into 32 signals that can serve up to 128 end ports.

Easier network management

One of the design specifications of GPON was ease of troubleshooting. Because of the number of passive components, it lends itself more easily to centralised management, compared to an active Ethernet network. It is also easier to make high volume moves, changes and additions, with less field technician support required.


Stuart Hardy has been in the ICT industry since 1997, has been in the Telecommunications industry since 1997, intimately involved in product development, operations and product marketing roles. He has held Executive level positions in some of the largest Operators in South Africa and has founded and driven two successful start-up companies in the Mobile data and Wireless networking spaces. Today, Stuart is a Divisional Director for EOH in their Telecommunications sector.