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In a passive optical network with a hybrid wavelength division multiplexing time division multiple-access scheme, implementing reconfigurable wavelength assignment is complex; hence the need to determine the conditions for which the capacity improvements justify requiring reconfigurability over adopting a more inexpensive fixed wavelength assignment. Fixed and reconfigurable approaches to wavelength assignment are modeled and evaluated under nonstationary traffic conditions. The performance improvement is obtained in terms of bit rate gain relative to the nominal bandwidth and depends on the number of wavelength channels as well as the magnitude of the load offered by the optical network units. In addition, frame delay and frame loss in relation to the bit rate performance are obtained for Pareto and exponentially distributed traffic. Simulations show that when introducing reconfigurability, typical peak bit rate gains with respect to the fixed case are 17%, and maxima of 175% are potentially possible when traffic demands are particularly uneven.