G.fast Keeps Copper Center Stage

Carl Weinschenk
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A lot of what research and development teams at carriers, service providers and the companies that support them do is try to find ways to reuse infrastructure that is deployed but on the verge of being antiquated. The cable industry faces the challenge with coaxial cable, and the telcos in the copper that dominates the edges of its networks.

One of the techniques aimed at extending the life of copper is the forthcoming IEEE P802.3bz, which will enable most copper cables to carry Ethernet at a much faster clip than previously. Another is G.fast, a technique that does the same thing for copper wires being used for digital subscriber line (DSL) applications.

G.fast has been in the pipeline for several years and is now beginning to emerge. Lightreading reports that CenturyLink will use Calix’s AXOS g.fast technology to provide broadband to hundreds of apartments in Platteville, Wisconsin. In total, G.fast will serve 44 multiple dwelling units (MDUs) housing 800 people.

The same Calix technology is bound for Nebraska. In late July, Telecompetitor reported that Windstream is deploying AXOS to two apartment complexes in the Lincoln market. The implementation covers 550 units in 25 buildings. In addition, Calix’s GigaCenter platform will provide Wi-Fi coverage in the buildings.

The deployments are significant despite their relatively modest size. In another important move, the Broadband Forum this week released specifications on Fiber-to-the-Distribution Point (FTTdp). TR-355 uses the new YANG modeling language. The goal is to make it possible to manage networks that use different combinations of networking approaches. In essence, the Broadband Forum is trying to make it easy for carriers and service providers to mix and match as they upgrade and retrofit their networks:

TR-355 consists of seven YANG data model software specifications, including common Broadband Forum YANG types, an interface object supporting xDSL and G.fast, and the ITU‑T standardized objects for start up of G.fast or VDSL, G.fast and VDSL2 configuration, status monitoring, performance management, testing and diagnostics, and Single-Ended Line Test (SELT) and Metallic Line Test (MELT) configuration and test results. The modules are publicly available via GitHub.

Developers have done a great job of squeezing capacity out of copper. If they fail, the ramifications are costly, time consuming and altogether unpleasant upgrades. Companies want to avoid this at all costs, and copper is at the center of those efforts.

The importance that copper will play going forward is illustrated by the centrality it holds for Adtran, as this Fierce Telecom interview with CEO Tom Stanton suggests. The bottom line is that even in the world of software-defined networks (SDNs), copper – which has been used by the telephone industry since its birth – still has a vital role.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.

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