Optical Networking, Redefined.
September 20, 2023

Breaking Free from Vendor-Lock: Towards a More Open PON Ecosystem for Access Networks

If there’s one aspect of network operations that our team of engineers is dedicated to ending, it’s vendor lock. We’ve written about this before, specifically how some network equipment manufacturers (NEMs) use fear, uncertainty and doubt tactics to push network operators into a vendor lock scenario. Helping the industry push towards more open ecosystems is a core part of our ethos. That’s why, when it comes to 5G rollouts, for example, we’re a part of organizations like the O-RAN Alliance and Telecom Infra Project (TIP), which are helping deliver a new, multi-vendor world for MSOs, MNOs and other network operators.

As you can guess, our work to break down the barriers of vendor-lock isn’t limited to just one area. According to Fortune Business Insights, the global Passive Optical Network (PON) market will reach $35.59 billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 14.5%. Because PON technology enables network operators to deliver revenue-generating, high-speed broadband services with high levels of efficiency and scalability (while requiring minimal network maintenance costs), network operators are increasingly adopting it to meet surging demand for greater residential FTTH capacity. Although the majority of FTTH architectures have featured gigabit PON (GPON) technology, 55% of the overall PON market will feature symmetrical 10G PON (XGS-PON) deployments by 2026. The challenge when it comes to PON deployments? Closed, proprietary PON systems and the vendor-lock scenarios they create for network operators.

How Vendor-Lock Negatively Impacts PON deployments

To put it simply, vendor-lock makes PON deployments more challenging than they need to be, creating multiple scenarios where network operators end up being forced to contend with limited flexibility in how they tailor their PON architecture to their unique needs. Vendor-lock can result in higher equipment costs, longer lead times, complications with configuration and integration (especially with existing ODN/passive resources) and extremely limited upgrade paths to modern PON technologies (i.e., GPON to XGS-PON).

In addition to constraining network operators to specific hardware and software, many vendors also prevent their customers from innovating to overcome any barriers vendor-lock causes. Consider the example of a network operator that invested in a closed PON system. If they ended up needing to procure custom PON range extenders from another manufacturer to push past the transmission distance afforded by their initial PON architecture, their primary vendor could pull support. Many manufacturers include clauses to this effect in their contracts. The result – barriers to entry that are preventing broadband providers (especially rural telcos) from bringing the benefits of XGS-PON to their subscribers.  

Towards a Post Vendor-Lock Future

Multi-vendor competition offers network operators a plethora of benefits, including: 1) the ability to integrate a variety of hardware components (including white box hardware) as desired into their networks and 2) the ability to reuse existing ODN and passive resources. In other words, a more open PON ecosystem can help network operators to lower capital expenditures, reduce the costs associated with configuring and maintaining equipment (opex), and speed deployment times. Being able to buy individual components that interoperate seamlessly with each other and with existing equipment significantly reduces the barriers to entry that many would-be XGS-PON operators face.

For some network operators, however, a multi-vendor, open ecosystem raises the significant question of customer support. Those promoting proprietary, closed PON systems often warn their customers that the multi-vendor world creates a “hot potato” environment in which different vendors may bounce their customers around to avoid getting involved in helping them troubleshoot issues. We’re here to say that it is possible to get the best of both worlds – the more open ecosystem along with bespoke, agile, responsive customer support.

How Precision OT Is Helping Void Vendor-Lock for PON Deployments

When it comes to PON deployments, there is a way to have an all-inclusive, turnkey PON solution that eliminates vendor-lock and provides you with the agile, responsive, in-depth technical support you require. It’s called OpenPath™, and we’re proud to unveil it for network operators seeking a new standard of ease, flexibility, and efficiency in deploying and managing PON networks.

OpenPath™ is a comprehensive solution, encompassing all critical PON components like Optical Line Terminals (OLTs), optics, splitters, Optical Network Units (ONUs) and cutting-edge controller software. It’s everything you need, from one point of contact. However, we have embraced a white box hardware model in designing our system so network operators like you can avoid vendor-lock. You’re no longer limited to choosing from a few different hardware models from any one vendor. In this way, OpenPath™ empowers you to avoid long equipment lead times, speed time to market, configure your equipment more easily and enjoy upgrading your network on your terms.

Designed initially for XGS-PON (10 Gigabit symmetrical PON), our system also enables you to reuse existing ODN and passive resources, helping you deploy or expand your network faster and simpler than ever before. From a network management perspective, OpenPath™’s intuitive management software interface makes it easy to bring the components of your system together and optimize their performance. It also has the ability to integrate with any current software systems you might have.

With quick feature releases that leave you at the cutting edge of innovation, OpenPath™ is your gateway to a brighter PON future. The best part? We’re here for you every step of the way, from network design to implementation and management, now and into the future. If you’re looking for a future-proof solution that can help you accommodate surging data demands and emerging technology (including upgrades to other form factors/PON technologies), OpenPath™ could be the right fit.

As with any kind of networking technology, you likely have more questions than we can answer in one blog. Stay tuned, as we’ll talk more about OpenPath™ and its capabilities down the line. That said, it’s easy to get your questions answered today. Simply contact our team of engineers for answers and insights that you won’t get elsewhere and visit our OpenPath™ product page today!