Home > Articles > Networking > Wireless/High Speed/Optical

Passive Optical Networks: Lowered Cost and Increased Availability of Fiber-Optic Cabling

A shortage of fiber-optic lines in metropolitan areas is creating a telecommunications bottleneck for many mid-size and small companies. Telecommunications expert Annabel Dodd explains why passive optical networks may be the answer.

A shortage of fiber-optic lines in metropolitan areas is creating a telecommunications bottleneck for many mid-size and small companies. Telecommunications expert Annabel Dodd explains why passive optical networks may be the answer.

There is a shortage of fiber-optic lines between telephone companies' central offices and customers. This is creating a bottleneck of telecommunications capacity to customer premises. There are many fiber-optic lines in the high-speed backbone portion of the Internet and public networks. However, obtaining high-speed fiber to businesses' premises is often costly and time-consuming, and the capacity is inflexible. The article "OnSite Access Pins Big Hopes on Hooking Up Small Firms, in the October 12, 2000, issue of The Wall Street Journal, stated that 67 percent of office buildings don't have high-speed wiring.

Fiber-optic cabling is located in two portions of carriers' outside cabling: in the backbone, or part of the network that carries traffic between states and between telephone companies' equipment, and between an organization's building and the nearest telephone company equipment. This portion of the network is called the feeder cable. Most of the bottleneck in telecommunications is in this feeder or local part of networks.

What Are Passive Optical Networks?

Passive optical networks use optical access networking techniques to lower the cost of fiber in metropolitan areas. They essentially allow smaller, flexible quantities of bandwidth (capacity) to be delivered to customers. Customers can start with lower-speed services and order more capacity as they grow without changing onsite electronics. Inexpensive passive splitters distribute a single fiber's capacity among multiple fiber strands that go to customer sites. These splitters are located between the customer and the telephone company equipment. Intelligent optical terminals installed at each customer connect to the fiber and to the customer equipment.

One of way of overcoming this bottleneck is the use of passive optical networking technologies. Passive optical networks bring high-speed fiber out to points in neighborhoods. From these points, the capacity on the fiber is shared among up to 32 sites. A passive coupler at the neighborhood node spreads the fiber's capacity to multiple sites by using time-division multiple access. This is analogous to dividing the water from a hose into 32 separate streams. Each stream carries a portion of the capacity to an individual customer. The passive couplers are low in cost, are small (they range in size from a ballpoint pen to a Palm Pilot), and do not require electrical power. The biggest hurdles to proliferation of fiber in metropolitan areas are the cost of digging up the street and obtaining rights-of-way to lay the conduit.

With current fiber optic technology, once the fiber and electronics are in place, adding capacity involves costly hardware upgrades and long delays. With passive optical nodes, capacity to individual organizations is flexible, scalable, and lower in cost. When customers need more capacity, they call their carrier, who, by computer command, allocates more capacity to the individual site. No additional equipment is required, and long waits are eliminated.

Because capacity is available, high-speed traffic consisting of voice, video, and data can easily be carried on these fiber links. Currently PON Intelligent Optical Terminal devices at the customer site can be provisioned for from 64kilobits up to 100 megabits with ports that sense the protocol that the customer uses. The service can be used for local and long-distance calls, Internet access, intranets, or virtual LANs (VLANs), in which separate networks appear as one unified local area network (LAN).

Optical switches at the carrier's central office support local and long-distance services, ATM, Gigabit Ethernet, and IP. The optical switch accepts optical signals and changes them to electrical signals to look at the packet type so that the call can be routed properly. It can change the signal back to optical and hand the signal off to either the Internet or another carrier.

In addition to capacity, widely available, lower-cost fiber increases reliability for commercial customers. Users will be able to have more affordable diverse routes into their buildings. If one strand of fiber is cut or one central office crashes, traffic can be easily rerouted to an alternate carrier. This diverse routing is now affordable only for very large customers.

The development of passive optical networking devices is an example of the telecommunications industry's response to growing demand for bandwidth by business customers. These developments are spurred by both the growth of the Internet and innovations stimulated by competition and opportunities resulting from new local telephone companies started after passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020