Just as the telcos seemed about to let their copper wire
networks drag them to the bottom in broadband performance, new
copper wire technologies have emerged. It’s no wonder that
telcos such as Verizon have ended their efforts to build all
The Miracles Occurring in Twisted Pair Copper Wire Technology
The technology for carrying audio to and from phones over a
twisted pair of copper wires was invented back in the 1880s,
over 130 years ago. Most homes in first- and second-world
countries have at least one pair connecting them to telephone
networks, far more than cablecos can ever hope to connect.
However, as recently as ten years ago, broadband speeds over
those wires were, at best, 1 Mbps and much less than that, if
at all, in sparsely settled areas.
Technology Speeds of up to
VDSL2 40 to 50 Mbps
VDSL2 Vectoring 100 Mbps
Reverse powered FTTdp 250 Mbps
DSL Rings 400 Mbps
G.Fast 500 Mbps to 1 Gbps
Telcos, their suppliers, chipmakers and software services have
sped that up to 40-50 Mbps in many areas with technology
called VDSL2. They are now launching affordable copper wire
broadband technology called VDSL2 Vectoring that will provide
speeds in the 100 Mbps to 200 Mbps range, which will be
available in months. They are well underway in developing a
technology called G.Fast that is purported to have 500 Mbps to
1 Gbps over those same existing pair of twisted copper wires.
This photograph shows 600 pairs of twisted copper wires. Each
pair will soon be capable of broadband speeds up to 1 Gbps for
up to 600 residences.
The only changes to the telcos’ network has been to bring
fiber closer to the home where it terminates in a distribution
point (cabinet), new gear in the cabinet and a new modem in
the home — but those wires are the same ones from the 1880s.
A few years ago it looked as if the telcos would have to build
all fiber networks to the home in order to a) compete with the
cablecos, b) satisfy politicians and regulators for higher and
higher speeds and c) fulfill consumers’ increasing demand for
video streams to TVs, tablets and smartphones. Now they seem
to have or will have several choices in using their existing
fiber/copper networks with no new wires to install:
Cablecos are offering speeds of up to 100 Mbps over their
existing networks by changing the network gear in the
distribution office and installing a new modem in the
subscriber’s home. They and their suppliers are confident that
in time they can offer speeds of up to 1 Gbps.
Alcatel-Lucent, a main pusher of VDSL2 Vectoring, has knocked
down a major cost barrier to its deployment with technology
called Zero Touch that eliminates the need to upgrade every
modem on the network.
Chipmaker Lantiq and telecom gear maker Aethra
Telecommunications have developed broadband technology that
will allow telcos to offer speeds of up to 250 Mbps over 200
meter (yards) long twisted-pair copper.
A Canadian startup called Genesis Technical Systems is about
to unveil a copper wire technology called DSL Rings that can
support up to 400 Mbps over existing telcos’ networks.
The telcos and their vendors are jointly developing an ITU
technology standard called G.Fast whose goal is to provide
speeds of up to 1 Gbps over existing copper wire as long as
the distribution point (where the fiber is) is within 200
yards of the residence.
Please don’t ask why anyone needs those speeds like that telco
executive who asked a short 10 years ago, “Why would anyone
need 1 Mbps at home?” There’s a long list of applications that
might need the higher speeds — although 1 Gbps seems
excessive. We do know this: without secure and high-speed
broadband and home networking, there is no OTT industry or
Alca-Lu Technology Makes Deploying VDSL2 Vectoring Less
– “Zero Touch Vectoring” Eliminates Need to Upgrade Every
– Governments, Cablecos, Consumers Pushing Telcos for Higher
The year-or-so old VDSL2 Vectoring technology provides the
telcos the best near-term solution for increasing broadband
speeds up to 100 Mbps without having to build all-fiber
networks. However, the biggest barrier to widespread
deployment of VDSL2 Vectoring has been that it required telcos
to replace every modem in existing subscribers’ homes.
Network gear maker Alcatel-Lucent has developed what it calls
“a major new innovation” for VDSL2 Vectoring called “Zero
Touch Vectoring” that eliminates the need to update the
firmware on every DSL modem in the VDSL2 network. That will
save the telcos substantial dollars and reduce the time and
complexity of providing VDSL2 Vectoring speeds that are up to
100 Mbps on existing networks.
Alca-Lu said sophisticated signal processing is used to ensure
that existing VDSL2 modems can continue to run at full speed
without reducing the service quality for subscribers that have
the higher-speed VDSL2 Vectoring modems.
The telcos are faced with two challenges in their broadband
– Government regulators and politicians want every home to
have access to ultra-high broadband, generally defined as
speeds in the 40 to 100 Mbps range.
– Cable TV operators are the ones pushing broadband speeds
with DOCSIS 3.0 technology that allows them rather
inexpensively and easily to offer speeds of up to 100 Mbps,
and higher speeds are expected for DOCSIS 3.0 in 2013. To
upgrade to the higher speeds, the cablecos need only upgrade
the gear in the central office and the subscriber’s modem, for
which some of them have begun charging extra.
Until VDSL2 Vectoring became available, the telcos’ only
alternative was to build fiber networks all the way to the
home, a complex and costly venture. Telcos, like the cablecos,
have to run fiber to near the home to used VDSL2 Vectoring,
which removes interference between copper wires from the fiber
to the home, which allows them to offer fiber-like 100 Mbps
speeds without a full fiber deployment.
Alcal-Lu launched VDSL2 Vectoring commercially in September
2011, but deployment on a wide scale was limited by the need
to replace every modem on the network, which it says “Zero
Touch Vectoring” now solves.
It has also enhanced its VDSL2 Vectoring technology with the
ability to support up to 384 copper lines in high-density
areas and has developed troubleshooting technology called
Motive Network Analyzer to maximize network performance.
Dave Geary, chief of Alcatel-Lucent’s Wireline activities,
said, “Trials with leading service providers have shown that
VDSL2 Vectoring can effectively deliver the kinds of speeds it
promised, and we are now starting to engage in mass-market
deployments. With our Zero-Touch Vectoring and other
innovations we are eliminating the final barriers that service
providers around the world have faced — enabling them to
deliver higher bandwidths to more subscribers, now.”
The key word is “now” because governments and competition from
cablecos are pushing telcos to increase their broadband
performance. So are consumers with their seemingly insatiable
demand for OTT streaming.