Future passive optical networks (PONs) are expected to support much larger capacity and much wider coverage. How to jointly address these two design requirements represents one of the most challenging aspects in today’s research on PONs. So far, most research efforts have been devoted to devising new architectural or technological solutions to support such stringent requirements. In particular, the technology to be used for transmission may have diverse multiplexing techniques, types of transceivers, modulation formats, and detection techniques. However, the question of which transmission technology is the most effective considering the trade-offs in terms of complexity, offered capacity, and reach is still open. In this paper, we aim at answering this question comparing the use of time division multiplexing (TDM), wavelength division multiplexing (WDM), and hybrid TDM/WDM techniques in PONs. To achieve this goal, we first categorize the main options for transmission technologies in PONs in three families: colored dense WDM (DWDM), tunable DWDM, and colorless DWDM. Then, we propose a new optimization scheme that selects the optimal transmission technology for different operational scenarios that are defined by varying the number of users, the distance to the users, and the traffic load. The choice of the passive optical components to be used at the remote node is also part of the optimization scheme given its significant impact on the choice of the transmission technology. As a result, we report and discuss which transmission technologies are the most suitable under different operational scenarios.
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