Employing Passive Optical LANs for Network Improvements and Flexibility

Network architecture using passive optical LAN or POL can help to accommodate the burgeoning need for enterprise bandwidth, with benefits to the integrator of easier installation and to the customer of greater affordability.

Ed Sullivan

Enterprise networks around the world are becoming progressively choked by the integration of bandwidth-hungry Internet-based applications.

The growing usage of streaming video content, integration of digital voice services into the LAN, video conferencing and other online activities not only contribute to the enterprise bandwidth dilemma, but also can pose significant security issues to conventional copper-based networks.

With dramatically increasing demand for bandwidth among user populations, many enterprises are turning to passive optical LAN (POL) for their data communications. Essentially composed of point-to-multipoint fiber conducted through unpowered splitters, POLs are telecommunications networks that enable enterprises to simultaneously converge multiple services such as data, VOIP, video, building security and management services and wireless devices.

Also, compared to conventional copper-structured cabling, POLs offer significant “green” incentives, a much smaller cabling footprint, and a future-proof architecture that can grow with bandwidth demand.

“Many users of fiber-optic cable services such as Verizon’s FIOS in their homes or businesses are, perhaps unknowingly, quite familiar with the basic benefits of the POL,” says A.G. Melson of Roanoke, Va.-based Optical Cable Corporation (OCC).

“Because these cable TV providers have fiber-optic backbones that can travel great distances without a degradation of signal (which occurs with copper-based cable), they can deliver higher bandwidth services such as high-definition TV, high-speed Internet, and digital telephone — individually or bundled,” Melson says.

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OCC is a manufacturer of a broad line of data communication cabling and connectivity solutions. In the POL area, the company offers specifically designed products to cover the entire network “signal path” from the OLT (optical line terminal) all the way to the ONT (optical network terminal) next to individual users’ workstations or desktops.

Melson likens POL technology (also referred to as a passive optical network or PON) to a FIOS-type architecture routed throughout a building or enterprise campus, rather than a residential neighborhood. The single-mode fiber network backbone is connected to splitters, each of which will provide fiber to 32 “customers.” In total, a single POL can be connected to hundreds or even thousands of individual users, providing them with a multitude of enterprise and outside telecommunications applications.

Industry suppliers project that in the not-too-distant future between 10 and 30 percent of population of conventional LAN architecture will move toward POL. The typical POL network will serve 200-plus users.

The benefits of POL are many, and should encourage enterprises such as universities, hospitals, corporate campuses, and multi-dwelling units — any facilities with relatively high-density populations of users — to install or retrofit this architecture.