Today marks the launch of Cisco Routed PON, a truly disruptive solution that enables agile, differentiated broadband services through a software-defined broadband network. It’s part of our ongoing mission to transform the economics of networking for the benefit of communication service providers and communities worldwide. Routed PON drastically improves the cost of broadband deployment in rural, suburban, and urban areas, to help bring reliable, superfast connectivity to both residential and business customers.

In July 2016, the United Nations declared the internet a basic human right. Recognizing the importance of high-speed internet access in improving people’s lives and growing the digital economy, governments worldwide are investing heavily in broadband builds. The $42.45 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) fund in the U.S. is just one example. Its goal is to ensure that every American can reap the benefits of high-speed internet access.

Communication service providers have welcomed initiatives like this because of the high cost of building new infrastructure and declining ARPU. Yet, bridging the digital divide and meeting both consumers’ and businesses’ growing bandwidth demands requires more than just public funding. It calls for a complete rethink of how broadband networks are built. That’s why we developed Cisco Routed PONto help communication service providers and municipalities to deploy broadband networks in a better and simpler way.

Why can’t we just keep doing things the old way?

In today’s hyperconnected world—where hybrid work is the new normal, artificial intelligence (AI) innovation is accelerating, and new bandwidth-hungry applications continue to emerge—rolling out and managing profitable, high-performance broadband access networks is difficult and complex. And, it’s going to become even more difficult as bandwidth growth continues—from 10G, 25G and to 100G, and beyond.

The challenges are about connectivity and the services that broadband solutions enable. Our customers want to deliver services in an agile and cost-effective way, but they are increasingly constrained by traditional broadband architectures with large, dedicated optical line terminal (OLT) chassis that require dedicated space and power. Additionally, these chassis are separate from the access router, so they require separate layer management that can be costly. Traditional broadband architectures also offer less flexibility because they come as an integrated solution from a single vendor.

What sets Routed PON apart?

Unlike traditional chassis-based solutions, Cisco Routed PON enables communication service providers to put a small form factor PON pluggable in a router and converge FTTx access with their end-to-end network. It has three building blocks, all underpinned by a software-defined end-to-end architecture based on the IOS XR operating system.

  1. Cisco Routed PON OLT Pluggable – A pluggable 10G OLT that replaces traditional stand-alone OLT chassis and connects the PON network to Layer 3 routing and services through a small form factor pluggable (SFP+) port on the router. The SFP is a cost optimized and power efficient way to deliver 10G symmetrical upstream and downstream data. Open and compliant with the OMCI standard, the OLT pluggable is compatible with any optical network terminal (ONT), helping customers avoid vendor lock-in.
  2. Cisco Routed PON Controller – A stateless management controller that runs as a container on the router, configuring and monitoring end points in the PON network. It applies configurations to OLT and ONT devices and collects state information, statistics, alarms and logs from devices, and reports the information to higher layer applications.
  3. Cisco Routed PON Manager – A WebUI application that acts as a graphical user interface for the PON network. The PON Manager facilitates device and service provisioning, and enables the management of users, databases, and alarms.

Flexibility, service differentiation, and investment protection

The capabilities of Cisco Routed PON lead to multiple positive business outcomes. The innovative architecture offers customers more flexibility because it’s interoperable with many ONTs. So, communication service providers can decide for themselves which ONT best meets their requirements and cost targets, upgrade to new features as needed, and not be tied to a single vendor’s roadmap.

Cisco Routed PON also makes their end-to-end architecture much simpler to manage, which in turn lowers OpEx. Instead of having separate systems and processes for PON, communication service providers can converge it with other access technologies on IP routers like active Ethernet – all unified by a common operating system, IOS XR, and automation.

At a time when reducing churn and growing revenue is critical, Cisco Routed PON helps customers stand out from competition and monetize their network investments in a smarter way. Thanks to its end-to-end architecture—with powerful IOS XR capabilities, such as segment routing and EVPN—it improves subscriber experience.

These capabilities also enable communication service providers to offer differentiated services for business and residential customers, such as ultra-low latency connectivity or additional security features. Crucially, Cisco Routed PON protects communication service providers’ investments as they build the Internet for the Future – ready for 10G, 25G, 50G, 100G, and beyond. When new higher-bandwidth Cisco pluggable OLTs become available, customers can simply plug them into their router on a port-by-port basis.

I’m proud of how Cisco keeps pushing the boundaries of routing and optical innovation to enable our customers to create more efficient and profitable network architectures. I see Cisco Routed PON as a further demonstration of how we are transforming and simplifying networking like we have done previously with Routed Optical Networking. I look forward to working with our customers as they leverage this new solution to accelerate the deployment of high-speed broadband in cities and rural communities around the world to bridge the digital divide.

Join us in the Cisco Village at OFC to learn how our latest innovations like Routed PON are helping customers transform with simplicity, scalability, and sustainability. 

Learn more about
Cisco Routed PON


Bill Gartner

Senior Vice President/GM

Optical Systems & Optics Group