One of the under reported but significant stories of the broadband era is the success of the telephone industry’s digital subscriber line (DSL) program. DSL aims to enable telcos to keep pace with cable modems and other delivery methods using innovative techniques to push their legacy copper infrastructure ever further. It is working.
It is not unlike the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' (IEEE) similarly successful 802.11 Wi-Fi program. Different types of DSL subgroups are aimed at different use cases. Earlier this month, the first class of products using one of those “flavors” of DSL, G.fast, was certified. The certification program is being conducted by the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL).
Gfast is designed to approach gigabit speeds over short distances. UNH-IOL approved equipment from ARRIS, Calix, Huawei, Metanoia, Nokia and Technicolor. Chipsets, the release says, are from Broadcom, Metanoia and Sckipio. (The press release links to a list of the specific products.)
EE Times offers good background on Gfast (which some people refer to by the earlier browser-and search-unfriendly name G.fast). The big advantage is cost. UNH-IOL Senior Engineer Lincoln Lavoie told the site that he saw a presentation estimating that bringing fiber all the way to the premises can represent 50 percent to 60 percent of total delivery costs. That clearly makes a strong case for squeezing every possible bit and byte out of already deployed and paid for copper.
Gfast is not just about total throughput, however. The story describes a flexible technology in which the allotment of upstream and downstream bandwidth can be allotted according to need and support is provided for subscriber-originated video.
The world of the last mile, not surprisingly, is a busy place. The UNH-IOL has set up two councils. One is aimed at development of Next Generation—Passive Optical Network 2 (NG-PON2) networks. The other, announced earlier this month, is for Gfast. Danny Dicks, in what in essence is the executive summary of a Dark Reading report, “FTTx: The State of the Market,” pointed out that Gfast is developing quickly and can be used in conjunction with PON technologies.
The last mile is a bit of the wild west: There is an array of starting points based on the legacy infrastructure that is in place and, based on this and other factors, telcos have different ideas about the best ways to proceed. The sweet spot for many is utilizing copper that is already deployed. It must be done, however, without limiting the services that the telco seeks to provide. The great strides being made with copper technology seem to be providing that capability.
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.