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World Record as Alcatel-Lucent Push 10Gbps Broadband Down Copper Lines

Posted Wednesday, July 9th, 2014 (9:43 am) by Mark Jackson (Score 2,972)
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Telecom giant Alcatel-Lucent appears, perhaps to the dismay of fibre optic campaigners, to have given the traditional copper telephone line a new lease of life after its Bell Labs research division claimed to set a new world record by delivering “ultra-broadband” speeds of 10,000Mbps (Megabits per second) over the aging infrastructure using a prototype technology called XG-FAST (G.fast2?).

The prototype XG-FAST tech, which also demonstrated how existing copper access networks could be used to deliver symmetrical speeds of 1Gbps (Gigabits per second) or 1000Mbps if you prefer, is described as being an “extension” of G.fast (aka – FTTC2 / ITU G.9700) technology that can provide Internet connection speeds which are “indistinguishable” from fibre optic Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) services.

Currently BT uses Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) technology in the United Kingdom to deliver speeds of up to 80Mbps, which works by replacing the existing copper cable between street cabinets and your local telephone exchange with a fibre optic line. The final copper line run from cabinets and into homes is then managed by VDSL2 technology (similar to ADSL but faster over short distances).

By comparison G.fast adopts a similar approach but it’s designed to take even better advantage of the latest advancements (e.g. Vectoring 2.0 to reduce crosstalk interference), which would allow it to operate at speeds of up to 1Gbps, albeit only by using higher frequencies (106MHz+) and over even shorter runs of copper cable (up to 250 metres). The most likely setup would be to combine G.fast with Fibre-to-the-Distribution-Point (FTTdp) or FTTrN technology, which takes the fibre optic cable even closer to homes.

However G.fast is still some years away and it’s likely that BT will be able to squeeze a bit more performance out of FTTC in the meantime, with Vectoring potentially allowing for download speeds of 100Mbps+. Other advancements, such as FTTdp and the 30a profile for FTTC, could potentially deliver speeds of 200Mbps+. But it remains to be seen how BT will shape its future direction and some of these upgrades would be expensive.

In the meantime Alcatel-Lucent has been quietly developing XG-FAST to help keep existing copper telecoms cable in the game, which might make it more economically viable for some operators than the cost of deploying a full fibre optic solution.

XG-FAST goes a lot further than G.fast in the sense that it uses an increased frequency range up to 500MHz in order to achieve higher speeds, but crucially this would be over even shorter distances (i.e. higher frequencies attenuate more quickly than lower frequencies / interference grows over distance, meaning there are diminishing returns in speed as the frequency range increases).

xg-fast broadband copper line performance table

Bell Labs achieved 1Gbps symmetrical over just 70 meters on a single copper pair and 10Gbps was achieved over a distance of 30 meters by using two pairs of lines (bonding). Both tests used standard copper cable provided by a European operator. The speeds are impressive but the distance is clearly more problematic, which might mean more of a choir for operators as they’d need to bring the accompanying fibre optic cable even closer to your doorstep (at this range you could almost call it FTTB).

Other factors would also become more of a problem when pushing copper lines close to the theoretical limit, such as the thickness of the copper cable itself and this is known to vary.

Marcus Weldon, President of Bell Labs, said:

Our constant aim is to push the limits of what is possible to ‘invent the future’, with breakthroughs that are 10 times better than are possible today. Our demonstration of 10 Gbps over copper is a prime example: by pushing broadband technology to its limits, operators can determine how they could deliver gigabit services over their existing networks, ensuring the availability of ultra-broadband access as widely and as economically as possible.”

Federico Guillén, President of Alcatel-Lucent’s Fixed Networks Business, added:

The Bell Labs speed record is an amazing achievement, but crucially in addition they have identified a new benchmark for ‘real-world’ applications for ultra-broadband fixed access. XG-FAST can help operators accelerate FTTH deployments, taking fiber very close to customers without the major expense and delays associated with entering every home. By making 1 gigabit symmetrical services over copper a real possibility, Bell Labs is offering the telecommunications industry a new way to ensure no customer is left behind when it comes to ultra-broadband access.”

Alcatel-Lucent’s achievement is impressive but we won’t be talking about XG-FAST technology in any kind of practical / commercial deployment sense for many years. The first commercial G.fast hardware and deployments isn’t due to begin until 2015 and BT has yet to complete its planned field trial, which means we won’t even see G.fast commercially in the UK for a few more years (assuming they can overcome its bugs) and before that we’re likely to see upgrades for FTTC and FTTdp/RN or similar.

None of these would be cheap upgrades and a move to G.fast/FTTdp nationally could also take a lot of time. By that time we’ll probably already be seeing symmetric 10Gbps+ from some FTTH/P/B providers. The question for some operators will be whether or not it’s even worth following the G.fast to XG-FAST path, as opposed to simply putting fibre optic cable in the ground and having less to worry about in the future.

NOTE: Take Alcatel-Lucent’s table above with a pinch of salt because VDSL2 / FTTC lines can operator at distances of greater than 400 meters, with well above 1,000 meters being seen in the wild.. albeit naturally at much slower speeds.

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22 Responses
  1. MrWhite

    Completely agree with the final paragraph. There must be a tipping point where it’s going to be easier/cheaper in the long run just to lay fibre rather than incrementally extending the fibre cable closer to premises.

  2. Tomo

    Wow 30 meters, that’s not even useful in the real world.

    • FibreFred

      Why?

      I’m about 30m from my pole

    • Dragon

      Depends how fast it tails off I doubt they’ll want to actually deliver 10Gbit/s to anyone anytime soon as the back-haul costs would be massive.

      But even if it improves it to 100′s of Mbit/s or 1Gbit/s it’s still a lot better than the current speeds.

      Obviously Fibre would be better but it’s still nice to see improvements either way.

    • FTTH

      Poles are max span 69m correct? (allow 10m for the house drop as well).

      Maybe that fibre transition can happen in the air halfway to the customer :)

    • No Clue

      That 30M is also lab conditions (IE perfect copper not decades old with poor outer sleeving and prior water ingress). Also seems a bit stupid to me if less than 30M is the only copper length that would be left you may as well replace that last 30M or less from pole or a distribution point to home with a short additional fibre run anyway. Even more so if you are going to have to spend millions more extending the fibre run from a cabinet to a pole.

      This seems more like an experiment than a actual product of any real benefit, almost like modifying a car with a big engine but it still having rubbish tyres and breaks to move and stop on.

  3. FTTH

    How much is the equipment to do G.Fast 1Gb over 500m?
    * Fibre Media conversion can be <£100 and deliver to 20km on an open standard.

    It appears like an operator Smokescreen to justify the delay in copper replacement.

    NTT have done the same speed with nothing in between.
    http://www.extremetech.com/computing/149541-ntt-docomo-sets-10gbps-mobile-network-speed-record

    I woudl suggest that they need to deliver 1Gb @ 3km in the field over old lines. "to ensure no customer is left behind when it comes to ultra-broadband access".

  4. Not entirely convinced of the use of a potential product that is so short in range that many apartments will be too far from the comms cabinet in the basement.

    In addition having to run with multiple pairs to a property means truck rolls, reducing savings of FTTdp.

    http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2013/07/a-look-at-future-fibre-to-the-distribution-point-broadband-isp-tech.html

    ‘So cost savings could be anywhere between 0 and 25%, with perhaps 10-15% a good average.’

  5. Slow Lincolnshire

    Please don’t give BT another excuse to keep their copper network afloat for a while longer?

    I can’t help but compare the situation of BT not giving up their copper network in favour of fibre seems similar to the reason why the major oil companies are in effect holding back the mass production of the electric car. Both stand to lose out on a lot of money by moving onto the “next big thing” so are both squeezing out as much profit of their existing business models before are then forced to move on

    • FibreFred

      Its not just about BT though, telco’s around the world will be looking at these sorts of trials

  6. Bob

    You need to take lab work with a large pinch of salt. What you can deliver in a lab will not reflect real live application

    The copper twisted pair was never intended to deliver high speed data and is not very good at it. The higher the speed of the data and the more users on a copper bundle the more noise is generated. You can use fancy tricks to cancel out the noise but these have an overhead. The copper cables themselves are also very susceptible to external noise and the higher the data speed the more of a problem that becomes

    Fibre or possibly wireless is probably the way forward. Interest in wireless though seems to have waned, It may though be quicker and cheaper to deploy a wireless link to bypass the copper between home and street cabinet, You are only looking at perhaps a 600 metres typically. At the sort of frequencies needed though you do need a pretty clear line of site and that’s probably the biggest problem

  7. Copper Col

    FTTC from Openreach for most will be the main product for providing VDSL for many years to come while others will wait years to get it.
    We know the pros and cons of this system but we either like it or lump it!
    I would be concerned for those who live 500m to 1500m or more away from their Cab as they may be paying for VDSL but only getting high end performance of ADSL2.

    The average household just wants good bandwidth and don’t care on the method of delivery.

    In my option FTTC is here so how can we improve on performance with low costs.
    Just use the last mile of copper and bond at the DP while waiting for FTTDP(dear knows when,if ever!)

    Having high bandwidth at the DP opens up lots of possibilities…..even for mini mobile cells!

    Keep an eye out for countries with no or very little fibre.
    You may be surprised with what they can do with their copper infrastructure using new copper technologies.

  8. Sledgehammer

    All this “is smoke and mirrors”. Anyone with FTTH has whatever speed they want now.
    You will probably have to wait 2/3 years at least before anything like that shows up on BT’s sales pitch. A time wasting exercise. False hope for the future.

  9. adslmax

    BT might push 120/30 next year with g.fast and vectoring. They have to do it otherwise BT will be fallen behind again in world speed.

    • Ignitionnet

      BT are not releasing G.Fast next year, and vectoring won’t bring a 120Mb tier on FTTC. 100Mb/20-25Mb was the last rumour I heard.

      G.Fast should be delivering way higher than 120Mb. 300-500Mb happily.

  10. Ivan

    Well.. Couple hundred meters and expensive deployment is not good enough.. Good luck to BT if they decide to carry on with that… Roll on DOCSIS 3.1 and Full Fibre solutions then..

  11. robert scriven

    Im over 1000m away on fttc i get 15 down and 670k up! when i upload to you tube , i cant use my connection in the house, everything stops while it uploads, pretty pathetic really.

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