PON Fault Scenarios and Troubleshooting Basics

A PON network consists of an OLT connected via a PON splitter to multiple ONTs (one for each subscriber, up to 64 subscribers). Sometimes, a second splitter can be connected in cascade to the first splitter to dispatch services to buildings or residential areas, which has been introduced more clearly in the previous post “Understanding the Split Ratios and Splitting Level of Optical Splitters”. This post will tell about troubleshooting of a point-to-multipoint FTTH network, also defined as a PON network.

simple PON architecture with one splitter

cascaded PON architecture with more than one splitter

PON Fault Scenarios

Scenario 1: Simple PON (only one customer is affected)

There are three potential faults when only one subscriber cannot receive service—fault in the distribution fiber between the customer and the closest splitter, or fault in the ONT equipment, or fault in the customer’s home wiring.

PON fault scenario

PON fault scenario

Scenario 2: Cascaded PON (all affected customers are connected to the same splitter)

When all customers connected to the same splitter cannot receive service, but others connected to the same OLT can, the cause may be one of the two—fault at the last splitter, or fault in the fiber link between the cascaded splitters.

PON fault scenario

Scenario 3: All customers are affected (at the OLT level)

Whether or not the PON is cascaded, all customers dependent on the same OLT may be affected. If all customers are affected, the cause may be from of the three—fault in the splitter closest to the OLT, or fault in the feeder fiber cable of the network, or fault in the OLT equipment.

PON fault scenario

PON Troubleshooting Basics

Troubleshooting a PON first involves locating and identifying the source of an optical problem. The following picture offers a complete view of all of the possible fault locations depending on how many customers are affected, and the best location to shoot an OTDR.

PON troubleshooting

Generally, most PON problems can be located using PON power meter and PON-optimized OTDR. The power meter is connected as a pass-through device, allowing both downstream and upstream traffic to travel unimpeded. It measures the power at each wavelength simultaneously and can be used for troubleshooting at any point in the network. A monitoring OTDR provides a graphical trace that enables to locate and characterize every element in a link, including connectors, splices, splitters, couplers and faults. OTDRs designed specifically for in-service PON troubleshooting exist. These OTDRs feature a dedicated port for testing at 1625 or 1650 nm and incorporate a filter that rejects all unwanted signals (1310, 1490 and 1550 nm) that could contaminate the OTDR measurement. Only the OTDR signal at 1625 or 1650 nm is allowed to pass through the filter, generating a precise OTDR measurement. In-service OTDR troubleshooting of optical fiber should be done in a way that does not interfere with the normal operation and expected performance of the information channels. Testing with the 1625 or 1650nm wavelength does just that. A PON-optimized OTDR does not interfere with the CO’s transmitter lasers because the 1650nm wavelength complies with the ITU-T L.41 Recommendation. The addition of a broadband filter, acting as a 1625 or 1650nm testing port at the CO’s WDM coupler, may be beneficial. And the quality of service provided to other subscribers serviced by the same 1xN splitter is not affected. Consequently, the technician can connect the OTDR’s 1625 or 1650nm port to the ONT and send the signal toward the CO. If a 1625 or 1650nm testing port is added to the CO, it is also possible to perform tests from the CO down to the ONT, but a 1625 or 1650nm filter may be needed at each ONT.


PON troubleshooting should first find the fault locations of the network. This post lists three types of potential fault scenarios for your reference. After knowing where the fault is, then you should use the correct tools to test and verify. PON power meter and OTDR can help significantly during the testing process. If you are confused about PON troubleshooting, hope the information in this post will be helpful.