The hybrid wireless-optical broadband-access network (WOBAN) is a promising architecture for future access networks. Recently, the wireless part of WOBAN has been gaining increasing attention, and early versions are being deployed as municipal access solutions to eliminate the wired drop to every wireless router at customer premises. This architecture saves on network deployment cost because the fiber need not penetrate each end-user, and it extends the reach of emerging optical-access solutions, such as passive optical networks. This paper first presents an architecture and a vision for the WOBAN and articulates why the combination of wireless and optical presents a compelling solution that optimizes the best of both worlds. While this discussion briefly touches upon the business drivers, the main arguments are based on technical and deployment considerations. Consequently, the rest of this paper reviews a variety of relevant research challenges, namely, network setup, network connectivity, and fault-tolerant behavior of the WOBAN. In the network setup, we review the design of a WOBAN where the back end is a wired optical network, the front end is managed by a wireless connectivity, and, in between, the tail ends of the optical part [known as optical network unit (ONU)] communicate directly with wireless base stations (known as “gateway routers”). We outline algorithms to optimize the placement of ONUs in a WOBAN and report on a survey that we conducted on the distribution and types of wireless routers in the Wildhorse residential neighborhood of North Davis, CA. Then, we examine the WOBAN's routing properties (network connectivity), discuss the pros and cons of various routing algorithms, and summarize the idea behind fault-tolerant design of such hybrid networks.
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