Broadband Forum: VDSL2 Vectoring Is Real and It’s Here to Stay

– Immediate & Visible Change in Bitrate

– Next Question: How to Best Deploy

“VDSL2 vectoring technology is here and it is real,” according to Robin Mersh, CEO of the Broadband Forum, and Lincoln Lavoie, senior engineer at the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL). Lavoie is involved in the Broadband Forum and is vice chair of the Metallic Transmission Technical Working Group.

They said you can immediately see the bitrates of copper wires going up and going down as vectoring is turned on and off. “It’s here to stay, too,” they said, because chipmakers have proven they can make successful vectoring chips and equipment vendors are shipping reliable vectoring gear.

The Broadband Forum’s first vectoring plugfest was for chipmakers. It was held in September 2012 with five participants: Realtek, Ikanos, Lantiq, Broadcom and Triductor. Later events followed up in December and February, adding more chipset participants. While Plugfests don’t directly certify the G.vector products, they provide an extremely valuable opportunity for companies to check their interoperability with other vendors. Testing is typically conducted with multiple vendors simultaneously to make sure their products are interoperable with other vendors. “It’s held for the vendors to see if they interpreted the standard correctly in the engineering work they did,” they said. Plugfest test results are vitally important because they are available to members of the Broadband Forum, which includes the telcos that will be buying the vectoring gear. Although they cannot attend the plugfests because of the non-disclosure agreement, you can hear the telcos’ engineers asking when approached by a vendor: “Have you participated in the G.vector plugfests? Who have you been able to interoperate with? Let me see your plugfest test results.”

Plugfest Schedule for Vectoring

Chips   September 2012

Chips   December 2012

Systems           February 26-March 1, 2013

Chips   April 2013

Systems           June 2013

Plugfests started with testing only two modems in the vector group, then eight and then more are added until they number in the hundreds. The goal is to be 100% sure that every model of modem works with every model of DSLAM. As the events progress in time, the test case complexity is also increased to keep pace with the development of the technology.

The next plugfest that the Broadband Forum conducted was with equipment makers and their systems gear. It was held in February 2013. Participating in the event were DSLAMs and modems from different equipment makers, the two hardware pieces needed to make a vectoring system possible, one in the central office or neighborhood cabinet and the other in the subscriber’s home. Lincoln said the vectoring industry has gone a long way toward interoperability. “You wouldn’t see that level of activity unless vectoring were real and cost effective,” he said.

Alcatel-Lucent, whose success in vectoring we have been following closely, has participated in the systems plugfest but not the plugfest for chips. Perhaps it does not have to because it is selling vectoring-capable gear, not chips.

Mersh said deployment of vectoring would be large and quite quick. Consumer demand, competition from the cablecos and prodding by government regulators are driving deployments.

Regulatory wise, the US situation is quite straightforward, he said, because there is only one incumbent telco and US telcos are not forced to share their infrastructure with third party “local loop unbundlers” (LLUs), as they are called in Europe. BT, for example, is forced to share its binders with LLUs that compete against BT for the same subscriber. In some European countries, he said, there are competing infrastructures.

As to modems, he said they have to be at least vectoring friendly or broadband performance will suffer. Users of vectoring friendly modems will not get increased speeds until they replace them with vectoring-compliant modems, but it may be possible for a legacy CPE to be upgraded to a vectoring friendly CPE with only a change of firmware.

Vectoring can get complicated, he said, when the incumbent telcos and competing LLUs share the same DSLAM and binder, he said. When multiple broadband service providers are operating the equipment, he said, they have to share responsibility for noise cancellation.

Asked whether government regulators who oversee telcos understand the capabilities of vectoring and how it can delay the deployment of all-fiber networks, they said some are very knowledgeable. It depends on how close they work with the telcos in their country. Overall the level of understanding is “pretty good,” they said.

Discussions were ongoing between regulators and the industry, both telcos and their vendors, they said. They pointed to the UK, Germany and Belgium as countries where the regulators have been active in vectoring decisions. The US’ FCC is very well aware of vectoring’s possibilities they said. However, the industry must do more to create understanding.

There is recognition that VDSL2 with bonding and vectoring can deliver speeds and broadband services such as IPTV in a very cost effective way, they said. One result is that all-fiber can be deployed only where it is cost effective to do so, such as new residential areas, which the industry calls greenfields, where there is no existing copper wires.

We asked the perennial question, whose answer seems to change each year: how much broadband do consumers need? We were told that it has to be …

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