Guest Column | April 23, 2018

Transforming The Healthcare Industry With Passive Optical LAN

By Cemil Canturk, Senior Marketing Manager Optical LAN at Nokia and the Association for Passive Optical LAN (APOLAN) Member


Technology is a crucial factor in improving the efficiency and quality of the healthcare industry. When implemented correctly it can deliver the healthcare services needed to positively impact individuals, professionals and organizations.

However, the proliferation of medical and non-medical applications brings new challenges for IT.  The “business as usual” approach in healthcare facilities, results in increased complexity of network infrastructure and cabling, increased power consumption and operational costs.

A new solution, called Passive Optical LAN (POL), allows healthcare facilities to achieve improved efficiency at lower cost, green buildings and more efficient spaces by providing a future-proof and high-speed infrastructure to keep pace with today’s healthcare innovations.

Keeping Pace With Healthcare IT Trends

In today’s world, patients, guests, physicians and devices all require reliable, fast and secure connectivity.  With this growing demand, the IT networks in healthcare facilities are under increased pressure.

For example, providing an Internet connection in the healthcare facility that can help patients and guests pass their time more pleasantly or usefully, results in higher satisfaction scores. This contributes to improved reputation and increased competitiveness for the hospital. In addition to accessibility, the guest network needs to be logically separated from the hospital network, to protect the hospital’s and the patient’s data.

On the other hand, the medical staff need quick and secure networks that allow the collection, storage and access of high resolution images, the distribution of patient medical information, and real-time collaboration. This also means that the network must support loads of capacity, so that patient and guest services (for example video for entertainment) do not compete for bandwidth with mission critical medical services.

There are also numerous applications on the operations side of a healthcare facility. Connected medical devices, deployed all over hospitals, and new applications also require connection to a high-speed network. Real time location services (RTLS), integrated security and energy tracking, as well as audio-video (AV) systems such as flat-screen TVs or large digital signs that provide information on available services are commonplace in today’s environments.

These trends increase the demand for capacity on the local area network, which usually means more networking equipment, as well as more physical cabling in the network.

Another trend is that healthcare facilities pursue Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification and therefore demand green IT systems with reduced HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), power and backup systems.

POL: The Infrastructure For Tomorrow

Sophisticated healthcare facilities are now looking at new models of IT and physical cabling infrastructure solutions to provide the highest bandwidth, reliability, flexibility and simplicity. With the right solution, facilities are able to offer room for growth while maximizing efficiency of operations and maintenance.

Passive Optical LAN, based on Gigabit Passive Optical Networking (GPON) technology and optical fibre cabling, is highly suitable for healthcare. It involves a single centralized active equipment or Optical Line Terminal (OLT), a simple and passive fibre network and thin-client edge devices or Optical Network Terminals (ONTs) which are centrally managed.

POL is highly flexible and scalable and enables convergence of all services (voice, data and video) on to a single network. Compared to copper-based cabling traditionally used in local area networks, optical fibre cabling provides higher capacity, reliability, resilience and data security.

There´s less network complexity, because POL uses a simple and centralized architecture, so multiple distribution layers typical for traditional LAN are removed and the entire network can be easily managed from a single point.

The elimination of workgroup switches and the simple architecture that requires less cabling result in significant CAPEX cost savings. In addition, reduced installation time and reduced overall lifecycle operating costs offer additional OPEX cost savings in the ongoing operations of the healthcare facilities. Other benefits are less space, HVAC and power required in the IT rooms. The freed space can be reused by the healthcare facility for revenue generating activities.

What Does This Mean For The Healthcare Provider?

  1. Technology ensures reliable healthcare applications

TIA-1179 is the Healthcare Facility Telecommunications Infrastructure Standard and aims to maximize productivity of the caregiver, to prevent potential disruption within the healthcare facility and not to compromise the facilities operation.

Given the bandwidth requirements and mission critical nature of devices in healthcare facilities, TIA-1179 recommends utilizing a minimum of two diverse-route backbone pathways and the highest performing media to allow for the longest possible lifecycle.

To meet the recommendations of the standard, traditional copper-based LAN have over-engineered the amount of capacity, power, pathways, cabling, aggregation and core switching which inflates the costs of healthcare facilities.

On the other hand, Passive Optical LAN offers better compliancy to the TIA-1179 recommendations and in a more cost-efficient way. In Passive Optical LAN, the OLT supports controller, switching and uplink redundancy.

Geographical distributed OLTs along with Type B protection enable the deployment of 2 separate pathways. Type B protection or fibre feeder redundancy allows connecting 2 feeder fibres of 2 PON ports to the 2 inputs of a 2:N passive splitter.

Finally, Single Mode Fibre has an unlimited bandwidth potential and is future-proof for the next decades.

In short, the network can keep pace with the today and tomorrow’s technology innovation.Helping providers do what they do best - help patients.

  1. Clean and sterile environment

Traditional local area networks use copper cabling that has limited capacity and low resilience requiring regular maintenance and physical upgrades. The copper cabling runs throughout, and in many cases congested, ceilings of hospital buildings. Pulling new cables through require removing ceiling tiles, drilling into doors and through walls.

These activities create dust particles that make their way into the air and that can possibly damage patients´ and medical staff´s health or disturb sensitive medical instruments.

Healthcare facilities demand that measures are taken during construction, renovation, maintenance and repair activities to preserve a safe, clean and sterile environment. One of the key applications is to use containment tents with HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filters. To qualify as HEPA by U.S. government standards, an air filter must remove (from the air that passes through) 99.97 percent of particles that have a size of 0.3 µm.

Thanks to the application of POL, requirements for HEPA tenting are reduced significantly. Passive Optical LAN uses Single Mode Fibre (SMF), which exceeds 103Tbps, so the cabling infrastructure never needs to be replaced. Furthermore, deploying the fibre in zoned architectures reduces cabling additions and changes, while minimalizing distances.

Typically, ONTs are placed outside the patient room and the different services are connected to the ONT with short-run traditional copper cabling. A patient room can be treated as a simple ONT. Plug-and-play pre-terminated fibre assemblies reduce any installation time and tenting.

Maintenance is done outside the patient room and is much simpler. It reduces the operational costs significantly and the patient room doesn´t need to be taken out of service.

  1. Unmatched security:

Passive Optical LAN is compliant with HIPAA and offers a wide range of security features such as:

  • Advanced Encryption Standard (AES-128)
  • Service Segmentation (e.g. service level VLANs with hard QoS and security)
  • Authentication & Authorization (e.g. IEEE  802.1x, NAC, PAC, DHCP option 82, RADIUS)
  • Access Control Lists (e.g. at Layer-2 Ethernet, Layer-3 IP and Layer-4 TCP/UDP)
  • Rate Limiting

To protect precious data, fibre is a more-secure medium than copper cabling because it is difficult to tap in to. Fibre is resistant to electro-magnetic interference. The ONT is a thin-client edge device with no local management access.

The Healthcare Industry Needs Passive Optical LAN

The healthcare industry is striving to achieve higher quality at lower costs. Unfortunately, continuing to deploy traditional copper-based LANs is expensive and brings the opposite results to what the healthcare industry needs.

Passive Optical LAN is the best choice today and into the future. Its architecture, scalability and reliability make it uniquely suited for hospitals´ mission-critical networks and its energy-efficient characteristic qualifies it as a green technology.

About The Association For Passive Optical LAN (APOLAN)

The Association for Passive Optical LAN is a non-profit organization that is driving adoption and educating the market about the technical and economic advantages of Passive Optical LAN technology. Through its membership, which is comprised of manufacturers, distributors, integrators and consulting companies actively involved in the marketplace, the Association hopes to help designers, engineers, architects, building owners, CIOs and IT departments implement and successfully use passive optical LAN. For more information, visit

About The Author

Cemil is responsible for Optical LAN Marketing in Nokia and is a member of the APOLAN Marketing Committee. In his role, Cemil is focusing on promoting and increasing market awareness and adoption of POL. He has 18+ years of experience in telecommunications, with positions in engineering, sales and pre-sales. Cemil has a Masters Degree in Electronics Engineering from the Hogeschool Gent in Belgium.