- Expect Deployments in 2016
- ‘Up to Several 100 Mbps via Existing Copper Lines’
Alcatel-Lucent and Telekom Austria Group’s domestic subsidiary A1 have tested G.fast technology at speeds of more than 100 Mbps over existing copper telephone wires.
Viennese composer Johann Strauss – now waltzing to a faster tune
A1 says G.fast is still in the test phase and that it will not begin deploying G.fast until 2016. Between now and then it will install fiber to MDUs in preparation for G.fast’s commercial rollout to existing MDUs. A1 estimates that about 400,000 residences in existing MDUs in Vienna are candidates for G.fast. That’s a potential market for 400,000 plus G.fast chips in the residences’ new G.fast-capable modems and another 4,000 or so in the fiber distribution points — assuming 10 residences per MDU. And that’s just Vienna, whose metropolitan area has a population of about 2 million people.
G.fast’s developers have a goal of achieving 1 Gbps, but that will come as the standard is completed by year end and as makers of chips and equipment begin fine tuning its performance.
AlcaLu and Telekom Austria were not specific as to the exact speeds, perhaps because it’s 12 to 18 months before G.fast can be deployed and the G.fast standard has not been ratified by its developers. Their announcement said “more than 100 Mbps” and “up to several 100 Mbps via existing copper lines” but never said how much “more” or exactly how many “several 100 Mbps” it achieved. Was the speed the 700 Mbps that BT said two weeks ago or the 1 Gbps that Sckipio said last week that it had achieved?
It’s believed that equipment and chip makers have achieved speeds in excess of 1 Gbps in their test labs. Actual speeds depend on the length of the existing copper wire (the loop) and the physical condition of the copper wires, which degrade over decades of use.
Two weeks ago, BT said it is working with equipment and chip makers such as Adtran, Alcatel-Lucent, Huawei and other unnamed companies on an in-house test of G.fast that had produced speeds of around 700 Mbps down and 200 Mbps up at 66 meters of copper telephone wires.
Neither BT nor Austria Telekom said whose G.fast chips they are using. Sckipio is the only company that has said (last week) it’s shipping G.fast chips, albeit only in test quantities. Huawei, Broadcom and Ikanos are thought to be developing G.fast chips and may have secretly started shipping G.fast chips for testing purposes.
The Telekom Austria announcement, coupled with BT’s G.fast announcement, is significant because:
- It shows that telcos have enough confidence in G.fast, even though it is not a “finished” technology, that they are willing to make their tests results publicly available.
- Alcatel-Lucent intends to be a major player in G.fast equipment just as it has become in vectoring.
- There is hope for telcos (and their subscribers) in telcos’ quest to match cablecos’ speeds over comparable network architectures: fiber to a box (also called a node or a distribution point) in the neighborhood and the use of existing wiring from the box to the home — about 200 to 250 meters — with speeds of up to 1 Gbps.
- There is a 1 Gbps solution for existing MDUs that does not require fiber to be installed all the way to the residence, whether in an MDU — of all the way to a standalone residence.
The low-hanging fruit for telcos are the thousand of MDUs in the world whose residences are already connected with copper telephone wires. Additionally, there have been disputes between broadband service providers and MDU owners as to who owns the wires within the building. That will not be a dispute with G.fast because no new wiring is needed inside the building. Also, installing fiber within an MDU (or to a standalone home) requires the telco to send a technician inside the residence, which is often a scheduling headache. This fiber-to-the-building (FTTB) approach eliminates installation expenses, deployment delays, logistical headaches and ownership disputes.
- The fact that telcos are announcing so far ahead of actual deployment — a year or more before deployment —shows how hungry telcos are for G.fast — to keep subscribers away from the cablecos’ faster speeds and to make politicians and government regulators happy.
Telekom Austria’s A1 specifically mentioned the appeal of G.fast’s ability to increase broadband speeds in “urban areas that are mainly characterized by pre-existing multi-story buildings,” of which there are many throughout Europe and Asia — and a surprisingly large number in North and South America.
The CEO of Telekom Austria Group and A1, Hannes Ametsreiter, said, “We’re proud to have succeeded in connecting the first customer in the world to our domestic A1 network with G.fast. This technology will enable us to offer urban areas data rates ten, even up to twenty, times higher than ever before. Fiber to the home remains our long term vision, but we consider G.fast as an intelligent interim solution until fiber will have a similar coverage as we have with copper now.”
Once again, we ask the questions: Why is FTTH needed for the next decade or two if G.fast can truly deliver speeds of up to 1 Gbps? How much broadband speed will homes need in ten to 20 years?
Addressing the very real possibility of interference slowing broadband speeds in copper telephone lines, AlcaLu said, “Potential interferences at high data transmission speeds can be eliminated with G.fast by creating a compensating signal. The main challenges posed by G.fast, however, are in terms of high data rates, as they require an increased use of computing power.”
The biggest appeal of G.fast to telcos is summed up in two words: “Cost” and “Now.” G.fast costs substantially less in labor and money to deploy and it can be done much quicker. It allows telcos to postpone building fiber networks all the way to the residence, perhaps for two decades.
Ametsreiter said, “With G.fast, fiber is deployed all the way to the basement of a building, with the final connection to the single living spaces being made with existing copper lines. This allows for a considerable reduction of expenses, as no costly rewiring at the customer premises is required. The data rates reached with G.fast will meet the needs of even the most demanding households over the next 10-20 years. If, in the meantime, extensive renovation works for the staircase of the buildings are planned, it will be up to the tenants to decide whether to install a fiber connection all the way to their living spaces.”
Federico Guillén, president of Alcatel-Lucent’s fixed networks business, said, “We are delighted to continue our strong relationship with Telekom Austria by trialing G.fast, a technology that promises to dramatically accelerate the worldwide availability of ultra-broadband solutions.”
Telekom Austria said there about 400,000 residences in Vienna alone that are candidates to be upgraded to G.fast. Fiber, which Telekom Austria calls “future proof,” is installed in new MDUs but Vienna has thousands of existing MDUs where installing fiber to the premises is expensive, disruptive to tenants and time consuming. It said, “G.fast proves to be the ideal solution for such premises as it allows customers to profit from ultra-broadband services now with no need for costly rewiring.”
[We would be remiss not to point out that neither “UHD” nor “4K” appeared in the public announcement from the two companies! But G.fast is coming just in time for the telcos to support multiple streams of UHD videos being delivered over the Net]
The Low Hanging Fruit
There are other metropolitan areas in Europe that are candidates for G.fast. Here are Wikipedia’s numbers for 30 metropolitan areas. Vienna is 23rd on the list when sorted by population.
Metropolitan Area Population Density
Greater London, United Kingdom 11,917,000 1,336 per km²
Paris metropolitan area, France 11,532,000 918 per km²
Rhine-Ruhr, Germany 10,223,000 1,049 per km²
Milan metropolitan area, Italy 4,653,000 2,282 per km²
Randstad, Netherlands 4,172,000 1,100 per km²
Frankfurt/Rhine-Main, Germany 3,795,000 558 per km²
Madrid metropolitan area, Spain 5,804,000 724 per km²
Munich Region, Germany 2,532,000 460 per km²
Hamburg Metropolitan Region, Germany 3,135,000 425 per km²
Berlin Metropolitan Region, Germany 4,971,000 825 per km²
Rome metropolitan area, Italy 3,419,000 943 per km²
Athens metropolitan area, Greece 4,013,000 1,054 per km²
Barcelona metropolitan area, Spain 4,233,000 2,356 per km²
West Midlands, United Kingdom 2,357,000 1,475 per km²
Stuttgart Region, Germany 2,664,000 729 per km²
Vienna metropolitan area, Austria 2,180,000 473 per km²
Stockholm metropolitan area, Sweden 1,861,000 285 per km²
Copenhagen metropolitan area, Denmark 1,823,000 655 per km²
Dublin Metropolitan Area, Ireland 1,534,000 228 per km²
Leeds-Bradford, United Kingdom 2,393,000 468 per km²
Greater Manchester, United Kingdom 2,539,000 1,984 per km²
Hanover Region, Germany 1,294,000 436 per km²
Lyon metropolitan area, France 1,748,000 286 per km²
Lisbon Metropolitan Area, Portugal 2,436,000 1,700 per km²
Brussels Capital Region, Belgium 1,801,000 1,116 per km²
Katowice metropolitan area, Poland 2,710,000 1,023 per km²
Warsaw metropolitan area, Poland 2,660,000 512 per km²
Budapest metropolitan area, Hungary 2,394,000 943 per km²
Naples metropolitan area, Italy 2,254,000 3,990 per km²
Bucharest metropolitan area, Romania 2,140,000 3,233 per km²
European Union as a whole 458,500,000 112 per km²
Note: The EU does not include Norway and Switzerland.
The ratio of MDUs to standalone residences varies from city to city, depending on the density of the population…
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