May 23, 2023

Active Ethernet vs GPON: Which reigns supreme for high-speed internet?

By Gareth Hughes, Head of Channel.

In the world of telecommunications, Active Ethernet and Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) are two popular technologies for providing high-speed internet to homes and businesses. While both technologies can deliver reliable and fast internet, there are significant differences between the two.

Pros and cons of Active Ethernet

Active Ethernet, or point-to-point Ethernet, is a technology used for many years to deliver high-speed internet to businesses and enterprises. In an Active Ethernet network, subscribers are connected directly to the service provider's Ethernet switch via a dedicated fibre optic cable. This means that each subscriber has their own dedicated connection to the network, which can provide high-speed internet with low latency and high reliability.

One of the benefits of Active Ethernet is that it can support symmetrical speeds, meaning that the upload and download speeds are the same. This makes it an ideal solution for businesses and enterprises that must upload large amounts of data. Another benefit is that Active Ethernet can support multiple services, such as voice and video, over a single fibre optic cable.

However, the downside of Active Ethernet is that it can be expensive to deploy, as each subscriber requires their own dedicated fibre optic cable. Additionally, it can be more challenging to manage and maintain than other technologies.

Pros and cons of GPON

GPON is a more recent technology that has become increasingly popular in recent years. In a GPON network, multiple subscribers are connected to the service provider's optical line terminal (OLT) via a single fibre optic cable split using a passive optical splitter. This means that the network can be shared among multiple subscribers, reducing the overall cost of deployment.

One of the benefits of GPON is that it can deliver high-speed internet with low latency and high reliability, similar to Active Ethernet. It also supports multiple services over a single fibre optic cable, making it a versatile solution for businesses and homes.

However, GPON has some limitations regarding symmetrical speeds, as it uses time-division multiplexing (TDM) to divide the bandwidth between subscribers. This means that the upload and download speeds could be more asymmetrical. Additionally, GPON can be affected by distance and signal degradation, which can reduce the quality of the connection.

How do the two compare?

To summarise the differences between Active Ethernet and GPON, we have created a comparison below:

  1. Deployment costs - Active Ethernet is more expensive to deploy that GPON.
  2. Symmetrical speeds - Active Ethernet offers symmetrical speeds, whereas GPON is more limited.
  3. Multiple services - Both technologies offer multiple services.
  4. Signal degradation - This is low with Active Ethernet and moderate to high with GPON.
  5. Distance limits - This is low with Active Ethernet and moderate to high with GPON.
  6. Maintenance - Active Ethernet is complex whereas GPON is easier to maintain.
  7. Speed - Active Ethernet offers speeds of up to 10Gbps, whereas GPON offers downstream speeds of 2.488Gbps and upstream seeds of 1.244Gbps.
  8. Split ratio - Active Ethernet has a 1:1 split ratio, whereas GPON has a ratio of 1:32 or 1:64.

In South Africa, several fibre network operators use GPON and Active Ethernet technologies. Here are some examples:


  • Vumatel
  • Frogfoot
  • Octotel
  • OpenServe
  • Dark Fibre Africa

Active Ethernet:

  • Vumatel
  • MetroFibre Networx
  • Dark Fibre Africa
  • OpenServe

It's worth noting that some network operators may use a combination of GPON and Active Ethernet technologies, depending on the specific needs of their customers and the areas they serve. Additionally, the choice of technology a network operator uses may also depend on factors such as cost, deployment time, and the specific services they offer.

SEACOM provides Active Ethernet connectivity

SEACOM has adopted Active Ethernet as its preferred technology for all of its precincts and connected buildings. Active Ethernet provides our customers high-speed and reliable internet connectivity while supporting services over a single fibre optic cable. Using this technology, SEACOM can deliver symmetrical speeds to its customers, making it an ideal solution for businesses and enterprises requiring high-quality internet connectivity.

SEACOM's choice to use Active Ethernet highlights the benefits of this technology and its suitability for delivering high-speed internet to businesses and enterprises. Additionally, it is a testament to the reliability and effectiveness of Active Ethernet, which has been used for many years to deliver high-quality internet connectivity. For more information or to get a quote for our connectivity services, email us at or leave us a message.

SEACOM operates Africa’s most extensive network of information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure, including multiple subsea cables and secure internet connections tracing both sides of the continent. This is partnered with broad terrestrial fibre networks in Southern and East Africa, extending services to these regions.

Today, SEACOM provides holistic ICT solutions covering connectivity, cyber security, cloud, smart networking and communication products that provide African businesses with the necessary building blocks to deliver world-class solutions to their clients. We are privately owned and operated, making us agile and adaptable to the needs of our customers.

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