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In this tutorial overview, the principles, advantages, challenges, and practical requirements of optical orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM)-based optical access are presented, with an emphasis on orthogonal frequency division multiple access (OFDMA) for application in next-generation passive optical networks (PON). General OFDM principles, including orthogonality, cyclic prefix use, frequency-domain equalization, and multiuser OFDMA are summarized, followed by an overview of various optical OFDM(A) transceiver architectures for next-generation PON. Functional requirements are outlined for high-speed digital signal processors (DSP) and data converters in OFDMA-PON. A techno-economic outlook for such a “software-defined,” DSP-based optical access platform is also provided.