The race among wireless, cable and telephone companies to provide the fastest and most economical networks remains hot. Last week, the first cable modems incorporating the Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS) were announced at the Cable-Tec Expo conference in New Orleans.
This week, it was the telcos’ turn. While it didn’t announce the passing of any milestones, BT Group used The Broadband World Forum in London to detail where it is in the development of digital subscriber line (DSL) technology.
Telcos face a very different challenge than cable operators. At the dawn of the Internet age, the sector was faced with a major problem: Its installed universe of copper wiring appeared incapable of keeping pace with cable operators’ faster coaxial cable and, certainly, fiber. The solution was to find ways to extend the life of copper while developing copper-based alternatives.
The industry certainly has made great strides on the fiber side. What’s been unexpected – and for them, a boon – has been the resiliency of copper. The industry has made continual upgrades to the core DSL technology.
The approach to upgrading DSL, G.fast, focuses on adding frequencies. However, the higher frequencies used cut down on the distance that the signals can travel. BT said that it is making progress in extending the distance that G.fast can effectively carry signals. The goal is to push it far enough from end users to avoid major rebuilds.
ZDNet reported on BT’s comments at the conference. The site said that the telco used the newest version of G.fast, XG.fast, to send data at 5 Gigabits per second (Gbps) over two pair copper for 35 meters and at 1.8 Gbps for 100 meters. BT claims that those speeds exceed most fiber-to-the-premise (FTTP) deployments. BT is set to launch G.fast commercially next year.
The future of DSL seems bright. Light Reading reports on comments made at the conference by Trevor Linney, BT’s head of access network research. He is upbeat about using G.fast for runs long enough to avoid those expensive rebuilds:
BT's goal is to drive the effective reach of G.fast technology to around 300 meters. "That is important because the typical distance between a cabinet and a customer home is between 300 meters and 350 meters in the UK, depending on where you are," said Linney.
The topologies of networks differ, of course. Thus, what works for BT may not work for AT&T or another carrier. But any increase in distance will benefit operators, no matter what the specifics. And there still seems to be room for growth in DSL.
New standards are accompanied by certification programs. Multichannel News reports that the G.fast certification program will start at The University of New Hampshire InterOperabilty Laboratory (UNH-IOL) during the first half of next year. More than a dozen companies have been part of the beta certification program. UNH-IOL also said that it will demonstrate G.fast’s ability to deliver 4K and announced a seventh G.fast “plugfest” for next month.
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 email@example.com and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.