Fiber GPON vs. Fiber EPON

Fiber GPON vs. Fiber EPON

It's no secret that fiber-optic cable is quickly becoming the broadband connection of choice. Fiber offers greater speed and reliability than DSL or Cable. The fiber-optic network is growing across the country as telephone and cable companies seek to provide faster service and simultaneously reduce the expense associated with maintaining old copper DSL and cable lines.

While consumers are now looking for "fiber-to-the-home" to enjoy high-speed data, voice and video services, business owners are finding that their data and connectivity needs are outgrowing DSL and cable. They’re looking to fiber as well.

Fiber GPON or Fiber EPON?

With fiber, business owners now find themselves facing new and unfamiliar choices.

There's more than one way to configure a high-speed fiber-optic network and even the most basic decisions come with ongoing cost and quality implications.

For example, what type of fiber-optic network would be best and most affordable for your business? Fiber GPON or Fiber EPON?

Let's Begin with the Acronyms

PON = Passive Optical Network

GPON = Gigabit Passive Optical Network

EPON = Ethernet Passive Optical Network

In short, PON is the fiber-optic technology that brings us broadband connections up to 1 Gigabit and beyond, bandwidth unavailable with DSL and cable. Fiber is “passive” because it doesn’t use electricity to transfer data (like copper DSL and cable lines) and it’s “optical” because it uses light to transfer data. An active optical network (AON) utilizes electricity-powered equipment to transfer data, wherein switches open and close to ensure that outgoing and incoming messages are going in the right direction.

Beyond speed, a passive optical network comes with one other key benefit – the ability to serve multiple end-points (or users) with dedicated lines via a single strand of optical fiber.

How do you want to connect to the internet and configure that point-to-multipoint architecture? That’s the question. GPON and EPON represent two different ways to configure your connection and your network.

The Key Difference

GPON fiber optic cable separates data, voice and video onto three different network layers. In contrast, EPON fiber optic cable unifies data, voice and video onto a single network layer.

As a result, a GPON network can provide a higher level of service quality for each type of communication. But it also involves more overhead, equipment and service provisioning. In other words, it’s more complicated and expensive to put together for a business with a central office and satellite locations.

An EPON network, on the other hand, provides seamless connectivity utilizing Ethernet devices and implementation can be easier and more cost effective. Most business IT departments are well versed in Ethernet technology, making it easier to manage. Also, Ethernet technology continues to advance and provide scalable service levels for growing businesses with minimal new investment.

Bandwidth Differences

  • Bandwidth varies little between GPON and EPON.
  • Slight bandwidth advantages with GPON can come at a premium in the form of additional equipment, compared to EPON.
  • GPON bandwidth will vary downstream versus upstream.
  • EPON bandwidth will be symmetrical -- that is, the same downstream and upstream.

Reach and Splits

  • Both GPON and EPON have practical limitations of 20 kilometers without running through an optical link.
  • GPON can support up to 128 optical network units through one optical line terminal.
  • EPON typically supports 32 to 64 optical network units through one optical line terminal.


  • EPON utilizes Ethernet technology and can be simpler to implement and therefore less expensive.
  • EPON utilizes only one management system versus three management systems for GPON.
  • EPON equipment costs can be as little as ten percent of the costs of GPON equipment.


  • With GPON technology, encryption is downstream only.
  • With EPON technology, encryption is both downstream and upstream.

Want to Learn More?

Fiber-optic broadband is certainly the way to go for almost any large business these days. Fiber offers high-quality and high-speed delivery for voice, video and data. If your business is considering a move from bonded T1s, DSL or even cable to fiber, take a few more moments to learn about the capabilities and benefits of fiber from Sparklight Business.

Download our this helpful GPON vs. EPON Infographic and give us a call today 855.873.9596.