G.fast Squeezes Big Juice from Copper Pair; TeliaSonera Launches Helsinki Pilot

Joel Stradling
Joel Stradling

Summary Bullets:

  • Widely available 500 Mbps speeds over copper remain several years away, but a handful of European incumbents are looking at the technology very carefully as a realistic means to get high-performance access economically leveraging existing copper plant.
  • The inflection point for widespread availability is going to hinge on sensible market regulation, so that domestic incumbents are encouraged to invest in G.fast while alternative ISPs and telcos have incentives to deploy G.fast-based offerings via LLU.

It is amazing to see how humble copper continues to guarantee its own survival based on good reasons to maintain it in the face of growing optical fibre investments.  Last July, A1 Telekom Austria and Alcatel-Lucent achieved 1.1 Gbps speeds over good quality cable along a distance of 70 metres and 800 Mbps over 100 metres in test cases.  The ITU-T founded the G.fast group in 2011, and the program has the support of several operators, chipset manufacturers and equipment vendors.  But, here’s the rub: Rollout is bound to become a contentious issue, fraught with legal battles between incumbents and alternative providers and overseen by domestic market watchdogs.  When it comes to deploying equipment and chipsets supporting G.fast, why would the incumbent invest only to be forced to hand the keys to the treasure chest to rivals ISPs and telcos?  Let’s leave the legal battles to one side; suffice to say, this will continue to keep the legal heads in Brussels, and throughout Europe, busy for a while to come.  Luckily, the early phases of DSL and the enforcement of LLU have formed a foundation, and G.fast regulation will surely be built upon similar models.  Across Europe and the rest of the world, copper pair quality, distances from exchanges and construction also vary wildly, so there will only ever be a patchwork quilt rollout for G.fast, with differences a certainty country by country.  Wholesale divisions, such as BT Wholesale, may play a fundamental role in developing white label versions that alternative telcos and ISPs can then take to a wider national market, which will help to encourage a healthy competitive landscape that ultimately benefits the buyer. Continue reading “G.fast Squeezes Big Juice from Copper Pair; TeliaSonera Launches Helsinki Pilot”