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AirPON: Opening the door to fiber network rollout for mobile operators

By Lu Chunyu, Senior Marketing Manager, Transmission & Access Marketing Execution, Huawei

Based on AirPON, operators can build a fixed and mobile merged network that improves connections for end users by reusing mobile base station resources, thus delivering a premium broadband service experience for home users.

To transform from a mobile operator into a full-service operator requires FTTH network construction. However, to do so also needs the deployment of centralized OLTs in the aggregation equipment room and long-distance ODN networks – 3 to 5 km – to cover home broadband users. In addition to high investment in the initial phase, operators also have to go through the complex process of obtaining ROW for the long-distance ODN, which usually draws out the project deployment period to a year and costs more than US$500 per line.

Huawei launched the AirPON solution as part of its strategy to develop 10G PON-ready Gigabit FTTH networks based on mobile sites. AirPON greatly improves the efficiency of mobile operators when it comes to building fixed networks by reconstructing FMC planning. It also shifts network connections away from a large central office (CO), instead connecting the ODN network via the OLT from a mobile site, making it much closer to home users. Therefore, it sharply declines the TCO of overall network construction.

Better home broadband needs higher bandwidth 

In the early stages of full-service transformation, mobile operators mainly rely on the advantage of quick service provisioning by WTTx to deploy broadband networks and quickly attract home broadband users. However, during the expansion of home broadband services, user demand for higher bandwidth has increased rapidly. However, as WTTx only supports 20 Mbps bandwidth compared with 100 Mbps provided by fixed line operators, operators using WTTx are gradually losing market share. Moreover, FTTH with optical fiber is the best weapon to face competitors with. Taking advantage of the customer loyalty fostered by WTTx, operators can switch their users from WTTx to FTTH quickly, therefore achieving steady growth in the home broadband field. 

To ensure sustainable growth in the market, operators need to optimize their home broadband and network construction strategies. Considering ROI, building 10G PON-ready all-optical access networks is the best choice at present for fast, low-cost network construction and quick service provisioning at higher broadband speeds.

A way to deliver home broadband

To power a full-service strategy and quickly develop fixed broadband services, Huawei and several mobile operators jointly launched AirPON at the end of 2019 to meet typical requirements for fast, low-cost construction. Huawei began deploying the AirPON E2E solution using operators’ mobile base stations, including pole-mounted outdoor cabinets M50 with built-in mini OLT, Blade OLT, uneven splitting, and E2E pre-connected DQ ODN. Huawei’s AirPON solution has the following advantages on top of fast construction:

Lower TCO due to a shorter ODN distance: A traditional ODN covers 5 km, which AirPON reduces to between 1 km and 500 m. Requiring far fewer optical cables and cores, ROW acquisition is simplified and network construction is more efficient. The solution improves the deployment efficiency of workers and reduces deployment complexity, solving the problems of high costs and long construction times and cutting TCO by 30 percent.

Zero site acquisition and reused mobile sites, fiber, and power supply: Traditionally, OLTs must be installed in the CO, which requires 10 people and six months for CO site preparation. However, Huawei’s industry-first pole-mounted M50 outdoor cabinet features a built-in mini OLT and full compact outdoor Blade OLT, which is similar in size and to install as a wireless Blade BBU. It shares sites with mobile base stations and reuses backhaul networks and power supply for fast deployment in just one day by two people. 

Zero fiber splicing and DQ ODN for E2E pre-connection: Traditionally, aerial optical cable deployment requires three rounds of aerial construction, while FAT-based installation takes a series of 10 steps. Moreover, fiber splicing is difficult and requires dedicated tools. However, Huawei’s DQ ODN solution pre-connects all cables between an OLT and users without the need for fiber splicing. FAT-based installation takes only three parallel steps. The construction cycle is reduced from 220 minutes and four people per HP to 40 minutes and two people per HP, increasing efficiency by 70 percent.

Zero configuration and OLT/ONT plug-and-play: OLTs support zero-touch deployment (ZTD) and require zero onsite software commissioning, reducing labor costs by 60 percent. ONTs support zero-touch provision (ZTP), plug-and-play, and cloud authentication without home visits. Including OLT upstream service provisioning and user-side Internet access tests, E2E FTTH service provision can be completed within 1 day.

Building a 10G PON-ready network: Huawei’s Flex-PON service boards integrates three modes: GPON, XG Combo, and XGS Combo. To upgrade to 10G PON, operators can just replace optical modules at the OLT Flex-PON board and upgrade GPON or 10G PON ONT terminals on demand without changing the ODN. In this way, a FTTH network can be constructed to be 10G PON-ready at GPON costs.

The AirPON-based network construction pattern is currently deployed by some operators in the emerging market. By providing FTTH services, it increases the bandwidth of low- and medium-speed users connected on WTTx, helping operators improve user loyalty, reduce churn, and handle market competition. Successful implementation has proven that the Huawei AirPON solution leads the way in FMC construction efficiency.

Better home broadband experience

AirPON can help mobile operators rapidly cover high-value, highly competitive areas with FTTH, and launch service packages with a minimum bandwidth of 100 Mbps  based on all-optical access networks. 

Operators can also develop the gigabit leased line market and gradually introduce new services such as 4K and cloud VR to provide users with converged broadband. This strategy will enhance user loyalty, reduce churn rate, and increase ARPU. Based on AirPON, operators can build a fixed and mobile merged network that improves connections for end users by using mobile base station resources, thus delivering a premium broadband service experience for home users.