Smart Buildings

How a Passive Optical LAN Simplifies Your Network and Lowers Costs

Ron Tellas
From space savings to less power consumption, there are five big benefits of POLAN deployment. Discover them all in our recent blog. 


As more technology is integrated into communication, collaboration and building operations, the complexity of traditional copper-based local area networks (LANs) becomes more intense. A plethora of endpoints—from wireless access points to sensors—are being connected to networks, which places additional stress on bandwidth.


As complexity and bandwidth demands go up, so do costs: More cabling, routers and switches are needed in environments like hotels, corporate and university campuses, and healthcare facilities so their networks can keep up.

Because of their ability to simplify network architecture, passive optical local area networks (called “passive optical LANs” or “POLANs”) are becoming an attractive alternative to traditional LANs.


What exactly is a POLAN?

As an alternative to a traditional LAN network, a passive optical LAN is a point-to-multipoint network that relies on FTTx architecture and protocols vs. switch-based Ethernet.


Instead of Ethernet cables, routers and switches, a passive optical LAN relies on singlemode fiber, passive optical splitters, optical line terminals (OLTs) and optical network terminals (ONTs). A POLAN shifts all network intelligence to an OLT and all device management to an ONT.


How are POLANs different from passive optical networks?

The passive optical LAN is a type of passive optical network (PON), adapted from the PON standard to apply to indoor networks. Passive optical networks support broadband and outdoor network deployments. Industry-wide POLAN standards have not yet been established.


How does a POLAN work?

While a traditional LAN uses routers and switches to manage signal distribution, passive optical LANs rely on light to transmit data and use passive optical splitters. No active devices exist between the OLT and ONT.


To establish a POLAN, a strand of singlemode fiber runs from the headend or OLT in the main equipment room to the desired location (typically near end-users) and connects to a passive fiber optic splitter that divides the signal to other fiber strands. Each of these strands is connected to an ONT that supports anywhere from one to hundreds of devices. Often, these ONTs have PoE-enabled ports to also supply power to these devices.


When does a POLAN make sense?

While a passive optical LAN may not make sense in every situation, there are certain environments that stand to benefit from the simplification and cost savings it can bring—not to mention the ability to meet the snowballing demand for dependable, high-quality connectivity.


For example, a POLAN is ideal when:

  • Venues can’t support the 100 m distance limitations of a traditional LAN
  • There’s a limited amount of space for cabling
  • Bandwidth requirements are high due to the increasing number of connected devices
  • Many networks require convergence
  • Easier network support and management are required


5 big benefits of POLAN deployment

In the situations mentioned above, POLANs bring significant advantages. Here are a few of the most important.


1. Space savings

Real estate is valuable. Dedicating space to network infrastructure is difficult to do when you also need to optimize your square footage for maximum revenue generation (more patient rooms, guestrooms, etc.).


By eliminating telecommunications closets or switches every 100 m, a passive optical LAN reduces the amount of space you must dedicate to cabling. Using passive splitters further decreases space requirements by reducing overall fiber count. With their small diameter, the singlemode fibers that make up these networks also contribute to minimizing the amount of space dedicated to infrastructure.


2. Preparation for digital transformation

Because they support simple scalability and a way to expand networks cost effectively, POLANs can also make it simpler to respond to the demands of smart buildings and IoT. 


Because singlemode fiber can support speeds of up to 100 Gb/s, it will be able to support whatever technologies and applications you deploy in the future, whether it’s Wi-Fi 6, artificial intelligence, virtual reality or video analytics.


3. Longer distances

Because POLANs rely on bandwidth-intensive singlemode fiber, ONTs can be located up miles from OLTs—instead of just a few-hundred feet or meters. You’re no longer tied to the distance limitations of twisted-pair networks.


4. Lower installation and maintenance costs

Passive optical networks reduce installation costs in several ways by:

  • Decreasing cable requirements
  • Reducing the need for hundreds of additional connections
  • Eliminating the distance limitations associated with traditional networks
  • Supporting faster and simpler moves, adds and changes
  • Removing the need for PC and client reconfiguration during the upgrade process


5. Less power consumption

Because only passive components are used between the ONT and OLT in a POLAN, no heat is emitted. This can reduce cooling requirements. These passive components also consume less power compared to a traditional switched-based LAN. Fewer electronics also mean less troubleshooting and maintenance.


Your POLAN partner

To support your POLAN projects, Belden offers the passive components you need. Our experts are here to help you deploy a flexible, scalable and cost-effective passive optical LAN.




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