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Openreach and Nokia test 25G PON full-fibre

Trials of next-generation full-fibre broadband will be based on passive optical network technology

Since the beginning of 2020, Openreach has been ramping up the delivery of ultra-high-speed broadband across the UK as part of the government’s target to offer gigabit connectivity to 85% of the UK, but looking much further ahead, BT’s broadband provision division has revealed details of trials of online offers that are more than 10 times faster.

The company has revealed it is working with Nokia to conduct the UK’s first-ever tests of what it says is a new full-fibre technology, which it believes could deliver ultra-reliable broadband services that are 10 times faster than today’s UK standard deployments.

The 25G PON (passive optical network) technology, pioneered by Nokia, is designed to deliver download speeds of 25Gbps over a single optical fibre, and it can run on the same underlying infrastructure that Openreach is already building across the UK.

In May 2021, Belgian operator Proximus announced what it said was a first for 25 PON through a partnership with Nokia, connecting the Havenhuis building in the Port of Antwerp with the Proximus central office in the middle of the city.

Nokia’s system utilises 25GS-PON technology that includes Lightspan access nodes – high-capacity access nodes for massive scale fibre roll-outs – as well as 25G/10G optical cards and fibre modems. Typically located in telecom central offices, Lightspan nodes see use in connecting up to thousands of users via optical fibre, aggregating their broadband traffic and sending it deeper into the network.

Nokia expects 25G speeds to be used by operators to extend their full-fibre networks beyond residential use into enterprises. The technology is also appropriate to be used by operators for 5G backhaul, which Nokia says will become important as 5G networks become pervasive and require small cells to be deployed in areas of dense traffic.

Having already tested the 25G PON technology at Openreach’s Adastral Park lab in Ipswich, UK, Nokia and the broadband provider plan to launch a field trial by the end of 2021. The trial will put the technology through its paces using a range of applications described as bandwidth-hungry.

If the field trials to test compatibility with existing technologies are completed successfully, Openreach said this could mean the companies developing an even wider range of services and speeds for the UK’s communications providers to offer consumers and businesses in the future, allowing them to upgrade customers quickly, smoothly and without disruption.

“As the country’s largest digital infrastructure provider, it is crucial that we continue to plan, innovate and evolve our network, to make sure we have the capacity and capabilities that the UK needs in the future,” said Peter Bell, network technology director at Openreach. “The full-fibre network we are building today is going to be the platform for the UK’s economic, social and environmental prosperity, and these trials prove that we can keep upgrading the speeds and services our customers experience over that network for decades to come.”

Nokia Fixed Networks president Sandy Motley added: “The key to unlock the virtually unlimited capacity that fibre offers is to develop new generations of fibre technology – and faster chips. Nokia’s Quillion chip allows us to have a solution that supports three generations of PON technology from a single platform that is already in the Openreach network.

“Having GPON, XGS-PON and 25GS-PON all on the same fibre means Openreach can efficiently evolve the network capabilities, address new opportunities and connect more consumers, businesses and 5G cell sites.”

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