How Passive Optical LAN delivers tangible benefits to Sustainability, Carbon Reduction and Net Zero initiatives

by | Oct 2, 2021 | Blog

Optical LAN delivers tangible benefits to Green, Sustainability and Net Zero initiatives

Passive Optical LAN is the smart enterprise network option for high-performance green buildings and campuses. Fiber-based LANs are more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly, and they take up less floor, rack and closet space than copper-based traditional LANs. Organizations implementing high-performance, healthy and sustainability building certification should explore switching to an Optical LAN (or OLAN) design.

So, how can Passive Optical LAN help?

Passive Optical LAN delivers tangible benefits to Green, Sustainability, Climate/Health, Carbon Reduction (both embodied and operational), Circular Economy and Net Zero initiatives, such as:

  • Lower Space Requirements and Smaller Footprint
  • Less Equipment, and Less Natural Material
  • Reduced Energy Consumption and Heat Dissipation
  • Improved Longevity and Product Lifecycle

Smaller Footprint – In the main data center room, Optical LAN offers 4x better Ethernet density from a smaller footprint. By occupying less rack area you save physical space, and with OLAN great aggregation capabilities, you save ports plus money at the core router too. At the telecommunication rooms, OLAN design gives you the opportunity to reduce or eliminate the telecom rooms. When you exit the telecom rooms you gain a rippling effect of reducing air conditioning, fire suppression systems, security surveillance and other building materials needed. Within the cabling pathways, the single mode fiber (SMF) can carry as many as 128 gigabit Ethernet connections across a single cable with OLAN. Furthermore, with OLAN deep fiber design, every 4-port Optical Network Terminal (ONT) provides a 4 to 1 reduction in cabling between the telecom closet and the connected devices. Because of the reduced amount of cabling J-Hooks can be used in the horizontal pathways instead of more substantial cable trays.

Less Material – Since Optical LAN prioritizes the use of fiber cabling and minimizes the use of copper cabling, far less copper is introduced into the buildings – in fact, miles less! This is a very good thing, since copper is a precious metal with a horrible environment track record for their destructive mining activities. Silicon (i.e. glass) is the 2nd most abundant material in the earth’s crust. Reducing the amount of plastics and PVCs burdening a building is another excellent green benefit. SMF cabling has 60% less plastic jacketing based on its smaller circumference. Plus, we already talked about how every 4-port ONT provides a 4 to 1 reduction in cabling. All of this even helps reduce the smoke load of a building which is a very important safety aspect. Finally, all this reduction of infrastructure has a far-reaching rippling effect that can significantly lower the weight impact on the buildings shell – architects and engineers will love that as it impact embodied carbon reductions calculations!

Reduce Energy – Optical LAN can lower the network powering demands on one building (e.g. 2,000 Ethernet connections) as much as 30-50% which moves the needle yet again for operational carbon reductions calculations. At Tellabs, we have had some of our larger customers, like Department of Energy Sandia National Laboratory, save as much as 65% in power consumption as a result of OLAN (e.g. 1 million kwh saved per year at Sandia). Another reduction in energy can be gained by lower air conditioning. This is possible because of reduced or eliminated telecom rooms, and because the ONTs and Optical Line Terminals (OLTs) can operate at extended temperature ranges. Finally, we have been seeing that Power over Ethernet (PoE) can be delivered more efficiently over an OLAN architecture – as much as 13% power saving with PoE over OLAN!

Better Lifecycle – This is the holy grail for circular economy and technology resiliency! First, there is the fewer cable refreshes by investing in a fiber-based enterprise LAN infrastructure. Fiber often has a warrantee that lasts 25-30 years, while copper cabling is historically ripped out of buildings  every 7-10 years – this has a huge negative impact on landfills. Second, there is fewer equipment refreshes with Optical LAN. We have already witnessed Gigabit Passive Optical LAN (GPON) be upgraded by 10 gigabit XGS-PON while keeping the same fiber cabling and passive optical splitters – the same will hold true for 40G or 100G NG-PON too! Furthermore, OLAN design does an excellent job at decoupling technology upgrades, like IEEE 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6. If you already have an OLAN installed in your building or campus, the upgrade to Wi-Fi 6 only means adding 10G XGS-PON XFPs pluggable optics at the OLT, and 10G XGS-PON ONTs, and then equipping those ONTs with multi-rate Ethernet SFP+ pluggable optics (e.g. 1G, 2.5G, 5G and 10G Ethernet) to connect the Wi-Fi 6 wireless access point. Last, OLAN’s support of multiwavelength is a game changer! This because it allows you to stack multiple 10 gigabit XGS-PON wavelengths over the same fiber infrastructure you originally invested in – that means you can grow this network to 40 gigabit capacity or greater!

This is all why Optical LAN is a great choice for green buildings and campuses. It is more energy-efficient, climate, healthy, and environmentally friendly, plus it takes up less space and consumes less material and energy. OLAN is clearly the first best choice for Sustainability, Embodied Carbon Reduction and Net Zero certification initiatives.

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John Hoover, Tellabs Marketing Director
John Hoover
Director of Marketing
John Hoover is a Marketing Director at Tellabs and 2024 Board Chair of the Association for Promoting Optical LAN (APOLAN). Over the past 20 years, John has influenced industry milestones such as early passive optical network deployments, video implementations, wireless and more recently enterprise Passive Optical LAN adoption.