An "Active Ethernet" architecture is based on the same deployment model as fiber to the node (FTTN) with active street cabinets or Ethernet switches in the central office; it is therefore feasible as a complement or migration path towards FTTH for larger deployments in very high-speed digital subscriber line (VDSL)-dominated environments.
Hundreds of networks around the world—and particularly in Europe—use Ethernet switches to deliver high-speed voice, data, and video services to single-family homes and apartment complexes. This configuration is driven by the demands for higher bandwidth made possible by the direct link from the switch to the subscriber. Additional advantages are: (1) The amount of bandwidth per subscriber can be adjusted more easily than in PON’s, and quality of service and service-level agreement support are more clearly understood and easily implemented when providing business services with the same infrastructure. Encryption isn't necessary either, since the bandwidth and lines aren't shared; (2) Ethernet is also seen as a better method to support an open access services model, which many municipalities and utilities favor. Since a fiber is dedicated to each subscriber from the switch—regardless of whether the switch is in the field or in the CO—moving a subscriber from one provider to another is relatively straightforward, unlike architectures like GPON; and (3) General familiarity with the protocol the AE uses. As such a simple Ethernet technology resonates more strongly in several segments.
The Active Ethernet main disadvantage versus GPON is cost, whether it comes in the form of having to power an Ethernet switches in the outside plant or, in a point-to-point architecture, running a fiber per subscriber all the way back to the Central Office.