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Cable Tightens Its Ties to EPON

The cable industry lowered another bridge to the fiber world last week when six vendors became the first to achieve qualification from CableLabs for EPON (Ethernet Passive Optical Network) equipment that uses DOCSIS-style service provisioning.

Those vendors (see chart) obtained qualification for equipment that adheres to the 1.0 version of the CableLabs DOCSIS Provisioning of EPON (DPoE) specifications, a designation that means the products are interoperable. In those deployment scenarios, the DPoE System is analogous to the cablemodem termination system (CMTS) in the DOCSIS world, while the Optical Network Unit (ONU) behaves as the modem at the customer premises.

Leveraging existing DOCSIS provisioning and backoffice systems should cut down operational costs as EPON starts to factor more heavily into how cable operators deliver services over fiber to midsized businesses.

Time Warner Cable and Bright House were among the MSOs championing the DPoE effort at Cable- Labs. Of that group, Bright House is using EPON the most aggressively.

After starting EPON deployments in 2006, EPON is now Bright House’s “default last-mile access solution supporting fiber-based commercial services,” Craig Cowden, senior vice president of network engineering and operations and enterprise business solutions for Bright House, said.

TWC’s current use of EPON is “limited, but we do see growth in that area,” TWC spokesman Justin Venech said.

“With the emphasis cable has put on signing up new business customers, [EPON] will become an important tool in their arsenal,” Jeff Heynen, principal analyst for broadband access and pay TV at Infonetics, said.

The 1.0 DPoE specs provide the “minimum foundation” for delivering business services that are interoperable with DOCSIS provisioning systems, Curtis Knittle, director of business services at CableLabs, said. While the 1.0 specs support basic Metro Ethernet Private Line (EPL) services, the 2.0 version of DPoE adds more depth and breadth by tacking on elements such as IPv6 and more advanced Metro Ethernet Forum services, including virtual EPL.

“The trend here … is to create the foundation and then add complexity needed to support the more complex MetroE services that the operators are wanting to provide,” Knittle said.

Vendors will determine when their products are ready, but Knittle expects that DPoE 2.0 testing to get underway in 2014. But CableLabs is already working on acceptance test plans for the 2.0 specs, he said.

TAKEAWAY

CableLabs has qualified the first gear that uses DOCSIS-style provisioning to link up EPON business services.