You got AON all over my PON!


Simple examples of a PON network, vs an AON network (source).

It seems the current line from LNP supporters these days when decrying the National Broadband Network (NBN) is to try to compare Active Optical Networks (AON) with Passive Optical Networks (PON). I’m not sure who’s propagating this misinformation, but it’s become pervasive enough (several LNP supporters have tweeted me about this over the last month) for me to write a post to debunk the myths.

In an attempt to muddy the waters I’m repeatedly told “but we already have fibre optic networks, why do we need another one”. Well, little Luddite, it’s quite simple really. What you’re talking about is either a Tier 1 network run by Telstra, Optus, Agile, or the like, OR, a retail AON enterprise service. The NBN is only delivering one of these, & it’s not the retail enterprise service. Sure, businesses will be connecting to the PON offered by NBN, but you won’t see anyone needing enterprise services looking at a PON network.

Why? I hear you not ask. Firstly, an AON runs fully symmetrically, unlike PON, offers higher outbound traffic than PON, & is a dedicated pair of fibre from exchange/office to office. The speeds of PON can vary, with NTT Docomo demonstrating 1Pbps (yes, that’s Petabit Per Second) transmissions over 52.4km on a 12-core fibre link.  For a long time, & no doubt will be well into the future, AON has been far out of reach of home users to even medium businesses. Who can afford to spend $10 000 p/m on a leased fibre line?

So what’s so special about PON? You jeer. Well, PON brings costs down by using passive splitters to allow up to 128 customers to use a single fibre pair, delivering up to 10Gbps down & 2.5Gbps up (for now). The standards used in a PON (GPON or 10GPON) are quite flexible allowing networks to be “tuned up” to much higher speeds when new technology is available.

A GPON is far from the end of the road for Australian telecoms, more like a solid base to build the next 100 years on. I’m sure there were people in 1879 who said “why are we investing in copper when something new’s going to come along as soon as you build it”, they were wrong. Wrong by about 130 years so far. When I hear the same thing from people claiming the NBN will be outdated by the time it’s finished, I instantly assume they know nothing of communications both historic & research for future comms.

The main point I’m trying to make is that the lack of knowledge of the average punter allows misinformation to be spread like wildfire. Instead of searching for information about these technologies, they go with either platitudes created by the LNP, or with the whole “make it up as you go along” technique. Neither of these work on the informed, but many who don’t know better, through no fault of their own, fall for the fear, uncertainty, & doubt spread by conservative politicians.

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You got AON all over my PON! by Sortius is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported
  • Aidan

    Welcome to the world of climate scientists. Same tactics, different subject. Spurious and erroneous technical minutiae used to baffle and bullshit the punters and journos.

    The professionally credulous regurgitate it and so it goes on and on.