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An active optical network (AON) comprises an active Ethernet switch that acts as the intermediate point between the central office and the end-user. Theoretically, this switch is capable of delivering symmetrical speeds of 100Mbps to 32 users simultaneously.

This level of throughput could only be achieved, however, if the link between the remote Ethernet switch and the central office supported 3.2Gbps (32 x 100Mbps). As this is expensive, AON detractors say it is more likely that the AON operator will use similar assumptions about bandwidth usage patterns as PON operators and oversubscribe the AON on similar lines. This would negate the AON bandwidth advantage.

By contrast, AON supporters say that one of the key advantages they have over a PON architecture is that it is much easier to remotely manage the network to guarantee bandwidth throughput to individual customers. That’s because an AON is ‘intelligent’ and the PON is ‘dumb’.

The issue about bandwidth capability is part of the ongoing AON versus PON debate. The main arguments for and against AONs – in comparison with PONs – are outlined below.

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