Israel-based Sckipio, which is making some of the hardware for BT’s forthcoming hybrid-fibre G.fast (ITU G.9700/1) broadband tech, claims to have successfully tested a connection that delivers speeds of 300Mbps over 500 metres of copper cable and this could rise to 500Mbps. But there’s a catch.
At present BT intends to begin the commercial roll-out of G.fast technology in 2016/17 (here and here) and they’ve pledged to make the new service available to 10 million premises by 2020 (roughly 40% of the UK), with “most of the UK” likely to be done by 2025. Initially the service will only offer speeds of around 300Mbps, before later increasing to 500Mbps.
The operator’s existing G.fast trials, which also make use of some Sckipio hardware via ADTRAN and Zinwell kit (here), have already shown that the service can deliver a download speed of around 300Mbps (50Mbps uploads) at a distance of 350 metres (this reflects the copper line reach / distance to your home from the nearby fibre optic connected G.fast distribution point).
In theory G.fast could even deliver Gigabit (1000Mbps) level performance, but the technology’s hunger for spectrum frequency and its dependence upon copper cable means that you’d have to be sitting practically next door to a distribution point in order to receive that kind of performance.
However Sckipio are constantly working to refine the technology and the company now claims to have achieved a speed of 300Mbps at the significantly greater distance of 500 meters, albeit by using “two-pairs of phone lines” (bonded copper “phone” lines). Furthermore they’re working on an enhancement that could make 500Mbps possible at 500 metres, which could in theory put many more people within reach of the service.
David Baum, CEO of Sckipio Technologies, said:
“[Fibre] to the home is a great goal, but simply too expensive to rationally justify on a per-user basis. Sckipio’s G.fast leverages [fibre] infrastructure, but eliminates the added cost needed to bring [fibre] all the way to the home. By switching to copper at 500 meters or closer, over $5,000 [£3,500] per subscriber of unnecessary expenses could be eliminated.”
The figure of $5,000 for “unnecessary expenses” isn’t very well explained and lacks context, certainly it’s a fair bit higher than the total “per premise” averages that we’ve seen for some FTTH/P deployments elsewhere in the United Kingdom. But we’ll leave that debate aside for now and continue to focus upon the news at hand.
The caveat in today’s news appears to be the need to bond more than one line together, which significantly increases the monthly rental cost and as such is not something that you see any major consumer broadband ISPs offering to home subscribers. It also doesn’t appear to be that much of a jump versus last year’s claim to have delivered 2000Mbps via G.fast, which had similar issues (here).
Still it’s an interesting development and shows that G.fast chip makers aren’t finished with refining the technology, which bodes well for BT’s future deployment.