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ADTRAN Warns G.fast Ultrafast Broadband at Risk of Perception Problem

Saturday, June 17th, 2017 (8:32 am) by Mark Jackson (Score 1,872)
copper and fibre optic hybrid broadband cables uk

Historically hybrid-fibre broadband services like VDSL (FTTC) rely on a mix of fibre optic and twisted-pair copper cables, although signal attenuation over the latter always ends up reducing performance over distance and the new G.fast (ITU G.9700/9701) technology is particularly susceptible.

Openreach (BT) currently intends to roll-out G.fast technology to 10 million homes and businesses across the United Kingdom by 2020. The top speed of the new service is 330Mbps (50Mbps upload), but you’d have to live within 350 metres or less from your local PCP street cabinet (G.fast pod) in order to stand a chance of getting that.

After that the speeds fall away rapidly to around the 100Mbps mark at 500 metres (note: a slower 160Mbps product will also be offered).

gfast long openreach diagram

However ADTRAN, which supplies some of the kit being used in G.fast deployments around the world, is concerned that the benefits of the new service could be weakened if infrastructure providers and ISPs fail to make a clear product distinction between performance on long and short copper lines.

Ronan Kelly, ADTRAN’s CTO, said (Total Telecom):

“Unfortunately there’s no differentiation from the industry perspective of long-loop G.fast versus short-loop G.fast, it’s all just called G.fast. So if there’s a bad experience on one extreme, it tends to tarnish every use case.

G.fast as a technology has a Hell of a lot more to give, we’ve got to be careful of the use cases so that we don’t damage its reputation. Combining the two use cases together … I think is putting the technology at risk”

As usual the big challenge will be in how best to segregate out the two use cases and promote that to consumers in a clear and simple way. The advertising of broadband services in the UK is already a very tedious subject (example) and most ordinary consumers are unaware of their own copper loop distance (it’s also difficult to know the precise loop length of every individual line).

The previous generation of Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (VDSL2) services somewhat dealt with this by having two primary product tiers (80Mbps and 40Mbps) and personalise speed estimates on checkout (not all ISPs do this), although that didn’t completely solve the problem and people can still much slower speeds than estimated on FTTC.

Lest we forget that plenty of other factors, such as poor home wiring, EM interference and cable damage.. among other things, can also impact the performance of such services. Suffice to say that we’re not sure if there’s a simple solution to this problem, although advocates of pure fibre would no doubt say, “forget all the copper, just do FTTP/H!” or something like that (somebody would have to foot the huge bill for that of course).

Alternatively Openreach could build lots of smaller G.fast nodes and put them much closer to homes via the Fibre-to-the-distribution-point (FTTdp) approach, which would deliver a more reliable level of performance. However that seems to have been put on ice for a bit in favour of cheaper street cabinet extension pods (we still expect to see FTTdp return in the future).

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13 Responses
  1. MikeW

    I’m all for that. Kinda like DOCSIS using version numbers.

    How about “LR-G.Fast V1”?

  2. mike

    Will BT re-route your phone line to the G.Fast pod or will it be the same as it is to the current VDSL cabinet? If not then isn’t G.Fast only going to provide good speeds for people who already have good speeds?

    My nearest fibre cab is less than 100m away but I would only get speeds of around 20Mb, meaning my line is around 1.2km long. Would G.Fast even work on a line that long?

    • Chris P

      Are you sure you connect to that cab?

      My nearest cab is also close ~ 200m but I’m not connected to it. My cab is ~1.2km away and I got ~24mb.
      My neighbors neighbour and everyone else on ascending house numbers connect to the cab just 200m away.

      Use the dsl checker to find out which cab you connect to

      https://www.dslchecker.bt.com

    • Mike

      No unfortunately I don’t connect to that cabinet, which is what I mean by re-routing connections. It’s crazy that my line is so long when there are nearer cabinets.

    • MikeW

      Why is that crazy?

      The infrastructure has grown over 50 years as the number of premises has grown, as the population has grown too.

      Phones in the home started up in the sixties. Since that time, the number of homes has increased from around 16m to around 27m.

      Its no surprise that plans have changed over that time, with cabinets getting added to support the increase in demand … but until the last 5 years, there has been zero requirement, and zero incentive, to attempt to retrofit houses to a newer, closer cabinet.

      It would have been crazy to retrofit over most of the last 50 years, when there was no need.

      Nowadays, it isn’t a crazy idea to re-route copper, but it does cost money. And, thanks to Ofcom’s drive to make broadband as cheap as possible, such expenditure isn’t made lightly.

    • Mike

      I understand that but if you go a few doors up from me everybody can get a solid 80/20. They should at least give people the option to pay for their line to be moved, as it would be a lot cheaper than getting FTTPoD.

      It feels like I’ll be stuck on 20Mb forever, in the middle of a city, if they don’t start building G.Fast pods closer to the home.

      My options are to spend a fortune on FTTPoD, get a stable 20Mb with VDSL, or, as I currently have, take a “200Mb” service from Virgin Media which is actually more like 20Mb but burstable to 200Mb during the early hours of the day.

    • MikeW

      I agree that you ought to be able to ask for a copper re-arrangement in a way that helps. Though it isn’t always easy (depending on the ducting direction and fill levels), so might be more costly than expected.

      This kind of re-arrangement is becoming a feature of some of the later phases of BDUK, where homes that still don’t get superfast speed continue to qualify for a subsidy, and a re-arrangement turns into the cheapest solution.

      TBB has a thread from someone who lives in the middle of an urban environment, with an EO line while surrounded by cabinets. It looks like his line is being upgraded by being re-arranged onto one of the nearby cabinets that has had FTTC for a while:
      http://forums.thinkbroadband.com/fibre/t/4498698-possible-cabinet-move.html

      In that case, it costs money to re-arrange, but is afforable within the later phases of BDUK. You might be too.

    • MikeW

      Ah – just realised you have VM. BDUK won’t be an option, so you might have to just force it yourself.

      The bigger ISPs won’t want to help, but some of the smaller ones might be willing to put an order in.

  3. Tom Bartlett

    “we still expect to see FTTdp return in the future”

    When?

    • Before I probably would have guesstimated sometime after 2020, although Openreach’s new plan to consult on the possibility of doing 10 million premises with FTTP may change the future strategy.

  4. DTMark

    Firstly I can’t imagine the technology being called “G.Fast” to the public. More likely, like “super-fibre” or some other incorrect and meaningless term will be used which in turn will incorrectly imply a certain level of performance.

    And secondly, BT’s deployment of this, from cabinets, is not “deployment of an ultra-fast network” but rather is to uplift speeds and gain headlines. While all still “up to” speeds.

    With the “fault threshold” at 100Mbps (from previous article) – and of course a “fault” does not, where it comes to BT, imply that anything need actually be repaired (handback threshold) – G.Fast as it will be deployed is not going to be synonymous with fast speeds any more than the words “fibre” and “broadband” have any particular association with any given speeds.

    G.Fast or “super fibre” might deliver “up to 100Mbps”. The tech could do more in other countries which have elected to only use the very limited DSL tech on only the shortest lines so as to standardise on a particular minimum speed which has a clear differentiator.

    • Lee

      Suspect BT will brand it Infinity. They make no mention that the current Infinity products use VDSL so I doubt they’ll mention G.fast.

      Just like Infinity 3 and 4 make no mention of FTTP, they just quote speeds.

    • AndyH

      It is already branded ‘ultrafast fibre’ by Openreach (anything above 100Mbps).

      BT Consumer will continue to use the Infinity product names.

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