Today the world of passive optical networks may be getting a major jolt of potential bandwidth. Alcatel-Lucent has launched the first Time and Wavelength Division Multiplexed Passive Optical Network solution, or TWDM-PON. They see the technology as a successor to GPON, supporting 4 wavelengths and boosting total capacity to 40Gbps.
Of course, increasing the capacity of last mile fiber networks isn't really the bottleneck right now. If you have fiber into the home or business, you generally have more than enough raw bandwidth already. The bottleneck is still getting the fiber into the building, house, or tower in the first place. But I think the advantages will initially be aimed more at the part just beyond the last 100 feet, i.e. the backhaul network whether it's for residential, business or mobile, where the economics might definitely shift.
The development of WDM was a big contributor to what we used to call the fiber glut, back when the dot com bubble burst. It took all those new intercity fiber cables that had just been put into the ground and expanded their theoretical capacity to what was then ludicrous levels. The real problem was the disconnect between the size of those connections relative to the low speed DSL folks were just getting at the time. The tidal wave of traffic necessary to bridge that gap took the better part of a decade to build.
But with TWDM-PON, the fire hose could potentially get turned back the other way. If WDM-type technologies manage to boost the potential capacity of backhaul and the last mile by another order of magnitude in an economical way, those intercity links could find themselves rather less overprovisioned in a hurry. We are already seeing more and more intercity fiber buildouts crop up, albeit as isolated cases most of the time.
Of course, the last mile doesn't have that other issue intercity networks had back in the dot-com era -- too many competitors with sunk costs desperately chasing the same traffic. The disruption this time could be simply to make Google Fiber-like projects easier to justify.
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