Developed Virtualization of EPON, Aiming for Higher-Capacity Communications for Society 5.0
- Contributing to Improving Infrastructure Prices by Automating the Optical Network Unit of Optical Fiber Access Lines -

January 15, 2021

  • Developed the SDN technology to virtualize EPON, the IEEE standard for optical fiber access lines
  • Enabling automation of control settings using Optical Network Unit OLTs on the telecommunications company side
  • Contributing to the sophistication of network operation and optical access infrastructure toward Society 5.0

Furukawa Electric Co., Ltd. (Head office: 2-3, Marunouchi 2-chome, Chiyoda-ku; President: Keiichi Kobayashi) is pleased to announce that it has developed SDN (Software Defined Networking) technology that can use software to create a virtual network in EPON(note 1) devices, which are used in fiber access lines for the Internet and other communications. The company is promoting higher-capacity optical fiber access lines toward Society 5.0. By automatically controlling the line status according to how the service is used and dynamically controlling the optimal settings according to communications demand in the OLTs (Optical Line Terminals) on the telecommunications company side, this technology will serve as an important element in the sophistication of future network operation and optical access infrastructure.


In the past, optical fiber access lines were mainly used for high-speed internet connection, telephone, and video distribution purposes. In recent years, however, expectations and demand for optical fiber access lines have grown, and they have come to be used in the fronthaul part of mobile and wireless communications, and are expected to be used in IoT infrastructures, mobility infrastructures, and more. With the establishment of the “Furukawa Electric Group, Vision 2030,” the Group is promoting R&D in the fusion domains of information and mobility as well as development to increase added value in optical fiber access lines.


The relevant technology aims to achieve virtualization in EPON, which is standardized by the American IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers). It will serve as the base for the open-source software project VOLTHA,(note 2)
which is promoted by the ONF (Open Network Foundation).(note 3) The development results of this technology have been made available worldwide by the ONF.(note 4)
There are two types of global access networks using optical fibers: GPON(note 5) and EPON, which are promoted and formulated by, respectively, the ITU-T (International Telecommunication Union Telecommunication Standardization Sector) and the IEEE. In Japan, the IEEE type is used by communications and cable TV operators. The relevant technology is an optical fiber access line technology that supports IEEE’s EPON.

What does it mean to contribute to the realization of a sustainable society through continuous technological innovation?

Japan and other countries are facing the social issue of a reduced labor force due to an aging population, and this issue is now becoming apparent even in the operation of information and communications networks. It is said that with the current technology and methods, it will be difficult to achieve operation that satisfies the needs of a diverse market. Thanks to this technology, in the future, it will be possible to automate the operation of the optical line terminals of optical fiber access lines, so the personnel involved in such operation can be placed in sectors with higher added value, which could further boost economic productivity.

Diagram of Virtualization EPON: Existing Systems

Diagram of Virtualization EPON: System Using This Technology

Explanation of Terms

(note 1)EPON (Ethernet Passive Optical Network): An optical transport and access network technology standardized by the American Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). A single optical fiber is multiplexed using an ethernet frame so it can be shared by multiple users.

(note 2)VOLTHA (Virtual OLT Hardware Abstraction): An open-source software development project made up of major communications operators from around the world (e.g. AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Türk Telekom, NTT).

(note 3)ONF (Open Network Foundation): A nonprofit organization that promotes the standardization of OpenFlow, which is known as a core technology of Software Defined Networks (SDN).

(note 4)EPON OLT adapter
EPON ONU adapter

(note 5)GPON (Gigabit Passive Optical Network): An optical transport and access network technology standardized by the International Telecommunication Union Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T). A single optical fiber is multiplexed using ATM packets so it can be shared by multiple users.

Furukawa Electric Broadband System

Furukawa Electric Group’s efforts towards the SDGs

Based on the corporate philosophy of “Drawing on more than a century of expertise in the development and fabrication of advanced materials to contribute to the realization of a sustainable society through continuous technological innovation,” the Furukawa Electric Group is conducting business activities centered on four core technological capabilities (metals, polymers, photonics and high frequency). Moreover, keeping in mind the “Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)” adopted by the UN, we formulated the “Furukawa Electric Group Vision 2030,” which clarified the business areas of the Furukawa Electric Group, and are advancing efforts aimed at “creating solutions for the new generation of global infrastructure combining information, energy, and mobility to build a sustainable world and make people’s life safe, peaceful, and rewarding.