A Guide to Passive Optical Networking (PON)

[2 min. read]

What is Passive Optical Networking (PON)?

PON, developed in the mid-1990s, was originally designed to allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to deliver broadband triple-play services (data, voice, and video) to residential users. Passive optical networking (PON), like active optical networking, uses fiber optic cabling to provide Data connectivity from a main data source to endpoints.

While there are many subtle differences, the major distinction between active optical networking and passive optical networking topology is the use of a technique that distributes a single signal to multiple branches through unpowered devices called optical splitters. While PON was initially focused on fiber connectivity to the home, other types of network users–such as hotels, hospitals, campuses and high-density residential buildings–are now seeing similar advantages in power distribution and fiber efficiency by deploying this technology.

Benefits of Passive Optical Networking

Lower Total Cost of Ownership

  • Lower upfront capital expenses and ongoing utility costs
  • Annual operating/maintenance expense savings
  • Optical fiber cable distances up to 20km
  • Smaller and fewer telecommunications rooms with smaller pathways

Decreased Power Consumption/Cooling Costs

  • The passive nature of the intermediate splitter eliminates the need for power and cooling.

Multipoint Connectivity

  • PON provides the flexibility of multiple connectivity options, including Ethernet, phone, video, wireless access point, and various controls.

How does a Passive Optical Network (PON) work?

In a Passive Optical Network (PON), a device called an optical line terminal (OLT) is placed at the head end of the network. A single fiber optic cable runs from the OLT to a nonpowered (passive) optical splitter, which multiplies the signal and relays it to many optical network terminals (ONTs). End-user devices such as PCs and telephones are connected to the ONTs.

Since the splitting function is a one-to-many broadcast of the same data stream, the ONTs are responsible for filtering packets meant for the various connected endpoint devices. Encryption ensures that each ONT reads only the contents addressed to the endpoints connected to it.

Who can benefit from a Passive Optical Network (PON)?

Passive optical networks have been utilized regularly by service providers worldwide for many years. Recently, different deployment scenarios have emerged that can leverage the strengths of a Passive Optical Network (PON) topology for other verticals.


  • Deliver end users predictable and stable connectivity
  • Offer data, voice, and video with the same infrastructure
  • Point-to-multipoint distribution network

Campus Environments/Multi-Tenant Facilities

  • Offer data, voice, and video with the same infrastructure
  • Simple and stable deployment in spread-out areas
  • Highly available network infrastructure with energy efficiency and space-saving

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