What is the difference between a passive optical network and an active optical network?
Both of these types of optical network make up the fiber backbone of the internet. The fiber backbone is the infrastructure of data routes that allow people and businesses access to the internet.
An active optical network uses powered switching equipment, like a router, to direct signals to people. The switches open and close to direct incoming and outgoing signals. For telecommunications customers, this usually means a dedicated cable running in to your home.
A passive optical network uses optical splitters to route signals, meaning that powered equipment is only needed where the signal originates and is received.
Each type of optical network has its own advantages and disadvantages.
For an active optical network, advantages include interoperability and scalability. This type of network is currently the industry standard. Adding new devices to the network is as simple as plug and play, and there are numerous hardware vendors whose products work within this type of optical network so customers are not tied to one specific company.
However, because they are powered networks they can be less reliable. This type of system can be more expensive than a passive optical network, too, especially if one is wanting a fully redundant system.
A passive optical network is able to serve more users, and costs less to do so. They are more reliable as they are a more simple system, meaning fewer things can fail.
However, they do not have the range of an active optical network. Users must be physically closer to the originating signal. People who use a passive optical network may also find that their systems are slower, as all users share the same bandwidth. If something does go wrong within a passive optical network it can be more difficult to find the source of the problem. And, as passive optical networks are not an industry standard it can be more challenging to implement this type of system.
There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing between passive optical networks and active optical networks. Both have their pros and cons for different applications, and either could work well for you. If you are unsure about what type of optical network is right for you, contact a cabling expert.