Smart Buildings

4 Ways that POLAN Can Contribute to Sustainability Efforts

Sandra Imrazene and John Hoover
POLAN relies mainly on fiber optic cabling, which may positively influence the environment. Learn 4 ways that POLAN can contribute to sustainability efforts in this blog.



We began our ESG (environmental, social and governance) journey as part of a determined effort to reduce Belden’s impact on the planet and enhance the lives and careers of those we serve.


As part of these initiatives, we are committed to optimizing our operations, products and services while also limiting our environmental footprint. Case in point: Belden is working to reduce its Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2025.


We’re making these improvements a priority not only for our own operations and processes, but also for the systems and solutions we design for you—our customers.


This is one of the reasons we’re sharing information about POLANs (passive optical local area networks). They’re becoming a viable—and sustainable—alternative to traditional LANs in applications where fiber is already in use.


Because POLAN relies mainly on fiber optic cabling, its deployment can sometimes reduce network complexity and costs. In some applications, it can also help eliminate distance restrictions and shrink material requirements, which may influence environmental impact.In this blog, we explore four ways that POLAN can contribute to sustainability efforts. (If you need to get up to speed on what POLAN is and how it compares to a traditional network, start here first.)



1. Uses Less Energy


In many cases, a passive optical LAN can reduce overall energy usage compared to a traditional copper-based LAN.


It’s important to realize, however, that energy savings—and resultant cost savings—don’t always translate when deploying a POLAN, especially in smaller installations (hotels with fewer than 200 guestrooms, for example).


But when POLAN does make sense, it can achieve energy savings in a few ways.


Passive vs. active components

The passive components that make up a POLAN consume less power than active components, which contributes to lower energy use.


Less air-conditioning demand

Air-conditioning requirements can be lower with a POLAN vs. a traditional LAN. The passive components used between the system’s ONT (optical network terminal) and OLT (optical line terminal) emit less heat and operate within a greater temperature range.


Fewer TRs to support

Because a POLAN is built on fiber—and singlemode fiber can extend up to 30 km (compared to copper cable, which has a distance limit of 100 m per TIA standards)—it requires fewer telecommunications rooms (TRs). In some cases, TRs can be eliminated altogether. In these cases, a passive optical LAN can lower energy usage by eliminating the need to power and cool these spaces.


Efficient power delivery

There are physical limitations involved with distributing power over a cable.


Moving power sources closer to endpoints can sometimes help you gain efficiency in this area. Because a POLAN system allows installers to place ONTs closer to devices like wireless access points and surveillance cameras, more efficient delivery of Power over Ethernet (PoE) is possible.


2. Offers a Longer Lifecycle

While some copper cabling systems can support speeds of up to 10 Gb/s, no current technology offers higher bandwidth than fiber. Over time, fewer cable refreshes will be needed to support emerging technologies and new applications. (This also sends less material to the landfill.)


Because POLAN decouples technology from network infrastructure, the passive optical LAN you install today will be ready to support speeds of 100 Gb/s or faster in the future, along with new generations of Wi-Fi—no major upgrades required. Its performance will only be limited by the system’s electronic components. As improved versions of these components are released, existing fiber can support them. 


3. Takes Up Less Space

POLAN can save valuable data center floorspace and rack space, which also reduces power and cooling requirements.


One rack supports thousands of users

For example, a traditional copper LAN backbone needs 18 standard equipment racks to support 2,000 users. Because it’s based on fiber, a passive optical local area network serves higher numbers of users in less space. With POLAN, a single standard equipment rack supports up to 7,000 users.


Less space needed for TRs

Because a passive optical LAN may eliminate or reduce the number of TRs required (as mentioned earlier), owners don’t have to dedicate as much space to cabling. Passive splitters further decrease the system’s footprint by reducing fiber count.


With fewer TRs, owners may also be able to reduce the number of cameras used to monitor these areas. The fireproofing and soundproofing in these spaces may be reduced as well.


No bundles to manage

Because there aren’t large bundles of copper cables to route and manage, you can reduce overhead pathways and instead use J-hooks to support fiber cables.


4. Requires Less Material

Several of the factors we’ve mentioned above lead us to this final point: POLAN can reduce the amount of material required to install and deploy your network. Depending on the situation, there may be fewer: 

  • Copper cables

  • Racks

  • Telecommunications rooms

  • Pathways 

A reduction in materials can help reduce costs and support faster installation as well.


Calculate Your Network’s Carbon Footprint

Tellabs created a POLAN Carbon Savings Calculator that we can help you use as an analysis tool to determine the embodied and operational carbon impacts of your network.


Built based upon certified and verified Environmental Product Declarations (including those from Belden), it can also compare traditional LAN designs to POLAN designs to help you evaluate the differences in environmental impact.


Special thanks to Tellabs for helping Belden with this blog. Both organizations see the benefits of POLAN in the right applications and are active members of APOLAN and HTNG (Hospitality Technology Next Generation).


Throughout the year, we’ll be working on a series of POLAN blogs together, covering topics like:




Related Links:




Guest Author

nullJohn Hoover

Marketing Director, Tellabs; Board Director, APOLAN

John Hoover is a marketing director at Tellabs and board chair of the Association for Promoting Optical LAN (APOLAN). Over the past 20 years, he has influenced industry milestones such as early passive optical network deployments, video implementations, wireless and, more recently, the global adoption of passive optical LAN for enterprise. Connect with John on LinkedIn.