The Future of Cable and Telco Fiber Access…What technologies to PONder?

As the digital age advances and becomes more integrated with our daily lives, access speed is crucial for modern telecommunications, shaping user experiences and driving business opportunities. Today's cable operators, previously focused on DOCSIS, are pivoting towards passive optical network (PON) technologies, notably XGS-PON, due to the speed, scalability and cost efficiency.

The industry's quest to deliver 10G access speed has sparked a debate about investment strategies—whether to adopt solutions that cater to immediate needs or to look ahead to future-ready technologies. One promising candidate is 50Gbs G.9804.hsp PON, which offers long-term, high-speed benefits, but comes with questions about market timing and feasibility. This debate mirrors the complexity of navigating the swiftly evolving technology landscape, balancing immediate gains with long-term vision.

Understanding the shift from DOCSIS to PON

Both DOCSIS and PON technologies present unique paths to achieve the coveted 10G access speed. DOCSIS, a trusted technology for cable operators, has been continuously improving for more than two decades. With DOCSIS 4.0 and beyond, it is entirely feasible to reach 10G access speeds, even if additional investment cycles are required to provide a fully symmetrical 10G offering.

On the other hand, PON technologies such as XGS-PON show increasing appeal due to their cost efficiency, scalability and ability to meet future demands. They offer the possibility of operational expense (OpEx) savings due to lower maintenance and upgrade costs.

However, transitioning to PON involves capital expenditure (CapEx) for a full fiber to the home (FTTH) overlay of DOCSIS, which can result in substantial costs.

For cable operators, there are multiple options. Operators may pursue the known path and continue investing in DOCSIS or consider a hybrid approach using ethernet passive optical networking (EPON) and DOCSIS Provisioning of EPON (DPoE) to leverage existing OSS/BSS systems. Alternatively, they could follow the industry momentum towards “Cap and Grow” strategies, capping DOCSIS growth while growing XGS-PON deployment.

While the trend is moving towards PON in well-established markets, the significant  CapEx invested in existing DOCSIS infrastructure may motivate further investment cycles in that technology. Operators must strike a balance between the potential OpEx savings of PON and the upfront CapEx for overlaying DOCSIS with FTTH. Thus, the transition from DOCSIS to PON is not just about technological superiority, but also involves critical financial and strategic considerations.

The need for speed: Between present and future

CommScope's own analysis, based on multi-year data from millions of customers, reveals that the current average peak bandwidth usage is approximately 4 Mbps. Interestingly, this average takes into consideration significant transitions in network use, such as the rise of remote working during the COVID pandemic, the shift to video OTT, HD, UHD and other bandwidth-heavy applications.

Looking ahead, CommScope's analysis projects a conservative forecast, with linear growth reaching an average peak usage of 100 Mbps by the next century. However, with a current exponential 21% compounded annual growth rate (CAGR), 100 Mbps average peak usage could become a reality as soon as 2040.

Despite these projections, the need for higher PON access speed remains a subject of debate. The recent release of Apple's "Vision Pro," an augmented and virtual reality (VR/AR) device with a suggested minimum requirement of 100 Mbps, could tip the scale. Yet, there remains a question about whether the adoption of devices with such requirements will become widespread enough to drive average usage significantly higher.

The traditional gap between network architecture’ delivery and the marketing department's monetization ambitions seems to have become inverted. Today's technologies, such as 10G XGS-PON and DOCSIS 4.0, offer plenty of capacity for current and anticipated bandwidth consumption increases.

Therefore, the pursuit of speed is not solely about satisfying immediate demand; it is about preparing for a future where higher bandwidth—driven not only by expected growth, but also by the possibility of widespread adoption of high-bandwidth technologies still unknown—might become the norm. By building future-ready networks, service providers will be well equipped to adapt to the bandwidth-hungry applications and services of the future, both the expected and the unexpected.

50G PON G.9804.hsp: A leap towards the future?

The telecommunications industry is aiming for the 10G target for access speed. Significant contributors to this initiative include Cable Labs, ITU-T, and 25MSA. Despite their concerted efforts, as of 2023, a full-fledged native 10G symmetrical offering is absent. This absence prompts a critical question: Does achieving the true 10G vision lie beyond the scope of DOCSIS 4.0 and XGS-PON?

The industry is abuzz with new endeavors targeting higher PON access speeds. Notable among these are the 25G MSA, 50Gbs G.9804.hsp, and certain pre-standard 100G solutions. These are all aimed at the delivery of 10G symmetrical services with justifiable use cases in commercial, X-haul, and B2B scenarios.

Yet, for B2C and residential services, the “use case” needs careful definition and rigorous testing. Service providers face a challenge with driving increased ARPU as users expect more bandwidth at less cost, and the notion of 'build it and they will come' cannot be justified in the 'speed' game.

Amid this scenario, G.9804.hsp emerges as a promising contender for reaching the coveted 10G speed and beyond. Its potential benefits include higher speeds and network efficiency. However, the implementation of G.9804.hsp also brings its own set of challenges, such as the readiness of the infrastructure and return on investment.

When compared to other technologies like XGS-PON, G.9804.hsp offers higher speed capabilities and aligns with future speed demands. This future-ready performance is a primary reason for the growing interest among vendors towards G.9804.hsp. Yet, the industry still must balance these potential long-term advantages against the realities of market demand, infrastructure readiness, and short-term economic viability.

Balancing act: Immediate need vs. long-term vision

Navigating the crossroads of near-term necessities and long-term visions, service providers grapple with the challenge of choosing the appropriate technology path.

While a full-fiber network unequivocally offers a future-ready trajectory, the selection among DOCSIS 4.0, XGS-PON, and G9804.hsp remains an open question. Regardless of the PON access technology chosen, the underlying infrastructure is ready, demonstrating the field's readiness for progression.

The “one-size-fits-all” approach isn’t viable in this diverse technology landscape. Emerging “Alternative Network Broadband Service Providers” have naturally gravitated towards XGS-PON, while incumbent telcos face a choice to continue investment in DSL technologies and transition to G.Fast, or opt for a 'cap and grow' strategy towards XGS-PON.

Cable MSOs, too, face a critical decision: a CapEx-intensive FTTH overlay, or a nuanced approach targeting subscriber “shedding” to reduce expensive hybrid fiber cable (HFC) node splits, for example. These strategic decisions vary by sector and are further complicated by regional market dynamics.

It's therefore essential for service providers to balance immediate requirements against future prospects. The optimal choice is one that not only meets the current needs but also anticipates and aligns with future demands, ensuring a robust, adaptable, and future-ready network.


The race to 10G access speed in telecommunications is well underway, fueled by initiatives from industry bodies like Cable Labs, ITU-T, and 25MSA. Emerging technologies like 25G MSA, 50Gbs G.9804.hsp and pre-standard 100G solutions offer promising avenues towards this goal, with the G.9804.hsp standing out due to its higher speed capabilities and alignment with future demands.

Current average peak bandwidth usage hovers around 4 Mbps, but with a 21% CAGR, 100 Mbps could become the new norm by 2024. As the industry grapples with choosing the appropriate technology, it's crucial to consider not only immediate requirements but also future expectations. This strategy ensures a robust, adaptable, and future-ready network. As we tread into this unpredictable digital future, informed decisions based on data and trend analysis are our best guide. Will we see a convergence of technologies in the pursuit of speed, or will one emerge as the clear winner in the fiber access race?

Only time will tell.

ANS blog