FTTHA planned AT&T XGS-PON field trial will introduce virtualized access functions with the next-gen FTTP technology, capable of 10 Gbps. XGS-PON is one of the next iterations of GPON technology, delivering 4x the downstream bandwidth, while co-existing with it, and having similar cost characteristics.

“Our vision is to put some of XGS-PON in the cloud with software,” says AT&T in a press release. They are implementing an SDN approach and collaborating with ON.Lab on the project, using ONOS (Open Network Operating System) and VOLTHA (Virtual Optical Line Terminator Hardware Abstraction) software components.

The goal is to minimize time and resources needed to provision, manage, and troubleshoot XGS-PON circuits in the access network. Traditionally, these tasks could require multiple people, take considerable time, and be costly as a result. By ‘cloudifying’ these processes, they can be automated, requiring very little human intervention. That’s the theory anyway.

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“Software-defined networks and XGS-PON are a natural step along the evolutionary path of PON technology,” said Eddy Barker, assistant vice president, Access Architecture and Design, AT&T in a press release. “This is another way we’re enhancing our network and staying ahead of changing consumer and business needs.”

This trial also aims to bring the ‘white box’ approach to some of the network hardware. Meaning the hardware should be interoperable and not proprietary to any vendor’s platform. In this AT&T XGS-PON trial, they plan to submit several open sourced white box XGS-PON OLT designs to the Open Compute Project (OCP) for approval.

No Love for NG-PON2?
It will be interesting to see the outcome of this trial and AT&T’s advancement of XGS-PON. Verizon announced a plan to skip XGS-PON and go straight to NG-PON2, another next-gen FTTP platform. They are currently trialing the technology and are pushing their own Verizon OMCI specification, that they hope may one day be adopted industry-wide. Among other things, the OMCI specification would also allow interoperability between PON OLTs and ONTs.

AT&T cites “…the merging of all services on a single network, including 5G wireless infrastructure,” as a reason to move to XGS-PON. But that’s often cited as an advantage of NG-PON2 over XGS-PON.

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