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Sckipio Claims G.fast Broadband Will Deliver 500Mbps at 500 Metres

Posted Thursday, January 28th, 2016 (11:16 am) by Mark Jackson (Score 1,803)
copper and fibre optic hybrid broadband cables uk

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.

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28 Responses
  1. Bob2002

    Whenever I hear about speed improvements due to bonding lines I tend to switch off …

    • Darren

      How many wire pairs do current VDSL/ADSL lines actually use? Most phone lines running into properties seem to include more than 2, be it 4,6 or 8. Yet my RJ11 connector into my broadband router, uses only two wires. I presume the other pairs are used for phone/historical reasons. If they are able to convert those to broadband, that would solve much of the problem. If the competition start outclassing them in speed, I could see open reach choosing to bond pairs if the alternative is FTTP.

    • Steve Jones

      I think 2 pairs is more common (certainly my properties have always had two pairs).

      In any event I don’t think x pairs over the dropwire/underground feed necessarily mean x pairs to the PCP. More likely the unused ones just end at a footbox or up a pole to be connected to spare pairs as required. Of course, if there’s a g.fast node up every pole/down every footbox, not so much of an issue. But then neither is the distance.

  2. hmmm

    copper more cheap fix Bt 19th century rubbish

    • Andrew

      Have to agree.
      BT clearly have not seen the future coming a lot fast than they think.
      2025?? What a joke. The amount of progress in the next 10 years will be roughly equivalent to the last 200 or something bonkers like that.
      Oh dear.
      I wonder at what point someone will cave in on the 100% FTTP thing.

  3. New_Londoner

    I’m taking this to mean improvements in the chipsets continue, which should be good news. It will be nice to have the option to upgrade at some point although no rush as my 70/18 VDSL line easily copes with whatever the family throw at it for now.

  4. Chris P

    It’s stupid that they charge more for using an existing pair that is already going from your home to the cab.
    Wire up all 4 pairs on every install and then offer faster VDSL by using more pairs. Obviously cheaper than gpon etc and available today.

    • DTMark

      BT’s main interest is in the line rental. If they give you one pair ‘for free’ then that’s one pair they can’t use for someone else to get more line rental (e.g. a second line).

      It would of course be possible for OFCOM to impose regulation that states that lines must achieve certain speeds, or a refund is due. In that case BT would have more of an incentive to make use of spare pairs and bond them. But they would probably still prefer to give the refund.

      Then we come to the issue of spare pairs. We’ve had about 8 visits from Openreach with cherry pickers just in our lane to fix issues, culminating in what appears to be a line re-route/new pair. Then you have to question the availability of spare pairs and the madness of running more copper to create them.

    • Steve Jones

      There’s probably not enough spares in the access network to give everybody a “free” one. Whilst it’s true that virtually every house will have two pairs in the dropwire (or delivered via underground), I don’t think that necessarily means there are two pairs all the way back to the PCP. It might just terminate in a footbox or up a pole to be connected as required. I’m no OR engineer, so I can’t say for sure, but I have my suspicions that might be true.

      In any event, it will still be two pairs that can develop faults so I don’t think, even if every pair from every house runs back to the PCP, that it would be cost-free.

      I should add a proviso to this, in that I can imagine OR using bonding (at zero consumer cost) if it is required to meet some future USO. It might just be the more cost effective way of reaching the target, but probably only if the function can be integrated directly into chipsets.

    • I can easily imagine them using pair bonding – AT&T and others already use it to increase the range of VDSL. It will need some regulatory changes to allow them to do so, though.

      Over to Ofcom who will probably block it on the grounds of ‘competition’.

    • MikeW

      Yes – only 1 pair from the dropwire will be cross-connected at the DP, so only one pair will be used in the D-side.

      BT already make use of multiple pairs for a single product, with the latest example being EFM. Historically, lots of E1 primary rate ISDN circuits would have come as 4 wire (2 pair) circuits. Bonding isn’t an alien concept to them.

      Of course, they probably wouldn’t have enough pairs in the D-side to bond everyone, so they might need to use it tactically, say, for extended range for USO purposes.

      A G.Fast DPU actually located at the DP would easily have access to the second pair. But likely wouldn’t need to extend the range.

  5. ‘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.’

    They specifically state ‘per subscriber’ not per premises passed so that one’s dependent on take up.

    Seems very high nonetheless.

  6. Darren

    Great so instead of my aluminium D-Side being replaced with fibre I’ll be using the second aluminium pair for bonding.

    No no no no no no no.

    Hopefully BT won’t be taken in by Sckipios marketing claims.

    • mrpops2ko

      laughably bleak prospect isn’t it?

    • alusufferer

      i’m in the same situation and it does indeed look bleak. i guess our only hope is that the location of the g.fast DP is close?

      With that in mind, is there any info on how many houses would be connected to 1 g.fast DP? from there it might be possible to determine a likely location at a street level?

    • Darren

      Unfortunatly faster speeds at longer distances will mean they won’t want to push the fibre deeper out to the DP. So we will be stuck with the aluminium and possibly having to use a second pair, doubleing the speed disadvantage compared to copper.

      Several BT engineers I’ve spoken to over the years have told me that even on aluminium lines the lead-in (from DP into the property) is always copper, which I can confirm is at least the case on my line. 60M of copper to the DP, 240M of aluminium to the cab and a further 2.6KM of aluminium back to the exchange. Should BT install G.Fast at the DP it would cut out all the aluminium leaving just a short run of copper.

      Not sure about the current capacity of G.Fast DP kit, probably about a dozen lines, no doubt the kit will improve with time.

    • MikeW

      DPU’s were originally meant to be close, so chipset vendors were oriented at making 4-line and 16-line versions. That would suggest distances of sub-50m.

      The success at getting decent speeds out of g.fast on lines up to 200m, 300m, 400m changes the picture. Now the chipset manufacturers need to scale up – 48, 64, 96 lines possibly?

    • FibreFred

      Darren do you know what the g.fast speeds are over various lengths of aluminium?

  7. Bob

    Forget g.fast. In my block of flats the wires to the dp are Ethernet cat5e. So just push in some fibre and install a Gbit ethernet switch. If BT don’t someone else will. Hell I could even do it and get a 2 Gbit Siklu ptp to backhaul to where there is already fibre and between other blocks of flats to get enough customers to make worth doing.

  8. GNewton

    Bonding lines is nothing new, has been around for ages. Whether it’s economical or practical is another question. E.g. if we were to achieve a simple 100mbps upload speed (nothing unusual for a business) we’d have to bond at least 5 VDSL lines, or at least 30 ADSL2+ lines (assuming Annex-M something BT Business doesn’t even offer). I doubt there’d be that many copper local loops. BTW, why isn’t there anything in development for higher and/or symmetric VDSL-based broadband technologies? This single focus on downloads is like trying to build one way roads everywhere.

    • MikeW

      Because “broadband” is a technology targeted at the residential masses, and developed with that market specifically in mind. The cheapness that gives it appeal to householders partly comes from monotonous regularity.

      In residential broadband, downstream dominates. Hugely. And will do so even more, as more TV is watched. So cheap residential products are built from technology that is designed with downstream domination in mind.

      If your business wants something well outside the norm for residential products, then you have to stop considering products designed for the residential norm … and start considering the business norm. You lose the advantage that residential monotonous regularity brings (cheapness), and gain what you need – a focus that moves away from downloads only. At the cost increase that happens with more bespoke designs.

      Sorry @GNewton, but much as you resist the term “leased line”, that is precisely the territory you are talking about.

      Business only amounts to 10% of the premises in the UK, so is already at a considerable disadvantage in volume compared to the residential market. And, even though you would like to think 100Mbps upstream isn’t unusual for a business, I would contend that it isn’t that common at all. I suspect it wouldn’t be close to 10% of the business market (*) – making it extremely niche in comparison to the residential market.

      Extremely niche = extremely expensive.

      (*) I just checked the BSG document for business access predictions, produced in 2015.

      It reckoned that, for 2015, almost no premises needed more than 20Mbps upstream, only about 1% needed 10-20Mbps, and about 20% needed anything in the 5-10Mbps region. The median was just 1.2Mbps.

      It estimated that, for 2025, almost no premises will need more than 50Mbps upstream, and about 20% will need 5-40Mbps. The median would be 2.3Mbps.

      Even in 2025, 100Mbps upstream will be highly niche.

      In the meantime, that current demand for upstream can be mostly met by bonding: EFM to be precise.

    • MikeW

      Sorry, I wasn’t entirely clear about those upstream figures

      Those upstream speed figures at the end of my last post are all business-specific needs. No residential data included there.

      They indicate that they do include homes in the data, where homes are used as a place of work – and note that the business load can be additive to the domestic load. But they also state: “We estimate the traffic intensity of a person at home is 2-3x that of a person at work.”

    • FibreFred

      Spot on mike gnewton is one of many (so don’t get upset ) who expect to be able to use a residential product for business at residential prices.

      A leased line is what is needed that is the right technical product. Medium to large businesses can afford them some sme’s cannot.

    • GNewton

      @MikeW: Agreed, for many private users download speed is more important, quite often they don’t do more than video downstreaming as the most bandwidth hungry usage. I never said I’d recommend residential bonded broadband lines for business purposes.

      I disagree with the future projection of your quoted study though, because there will be quite a few users out there (more than suggested by your quoted study) who will use the internet for more than simple downstreaming activities. For example, just think of the increasing importance of cloud based activities.

    • Ignition

      The cloud has become big for business, I and indeed my employer have almost everything there, however so far seems not to have caught on so much for home usage.

      Even then in our case the flow of data is far higher downstream than up. One person uploads a collaboration and many view it with another upload and edit and so on.

      Cloud storage might become more of a thing but even then a file gets uploaded once and retrieved for viewing multiple times. Cloud computing is asymmetrical. Cloud gaming is profoundly asymmetrical.

      It’s a big buzzword but there are no clear indications of a need for symmetry beyond being profoundly inefficient or having very outlying usage cases.

      Checking usage on the line used for both home and home office in the last month:

      Download: 414.102GB
      Upload: 43.750 GB

      How many people who aren’t running P2P all the time or have businesses that involve upload of uncompressed media will be too much different?

    • GNewton

      @Ignition: Thank you for sharing your experience about the broadband upload activity.

      The technology market research firm IDC reported in a study from September 2013 that more than 20 percent of U.S. broadband households are “power users”, frequently online, uploading nearly as much content as they download.

      We probably do more more uploads than downloads in our own office.

      It’s not only “power users” who benefit from symmetrical speeds, or at least higher upload speeds. Probably many “average” Internet users regularly utilize websites that require faster overall speeds. For example, 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, 70 million photos shared per day on Instagram and over 350 million new photos uploaded to Facebook each day. So it’s clear upload speeds are increasingly becoming an important factor to typical Internet users, though it doesn’t necessarily have to be of a symmetric broadband type.

      It is here in the country with the relatively low upload speeds where companies like Virgin Media in particular, but also many of the VDSL providers, have failed. Certainly companies like Verizon have seen a good business case to introduce symmetric broadband products in the States. And even in the UK, which is quite backwards, there are a number of new providers, like Gigaclear, who understand the need for sufficient upload speeds.

    • Darren

      Basing the argument for more upload speed on current usage is both short sighted and naive.

      As higher download speeds became available, more oportunities for using that extra speed opened up and bandwidth usage increased.

      I want higher upload speed so I spend less time waiting for stuff to upload, not because I want to run a business on the cheap.

      If the UK wants to build a digital economy neglecting upload speeds is not an option.

      How many new small businesses are there that can’t expand becuase the upload is holding them back and they can’t afford the several thousands of pounds for bespoke circuits or whatever it is you need to get a decent uplift wherever you may be based.

      No doubt download usage will outweigh upload usage for the forseable but that doesn’t mean upload usage wouldn’t increase if the speed was available. You would benefit from it instantly whatever your usage and I for one would certainly utilise it a lot more than I currently do aswell.

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