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G.fast gets telecom industry nod

Posted: 17 Dec 2014     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:G.fast  1Gbit/s  FTTdp  BBF 

Two weeks ago, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) ratified G.fast, the standard designed to deliver access speeds of up to 1Gbit/s over existing copper wires.

G.fast works by extending the range of frequencies over which broadband signals travel. Typically, it is likely to be used when the fibre has been deployed as far as the distribution point close to the office or home—the so-called FTTdp. And the sweet spot most operators will target will probably be 500Gbit/s performance over some 100m.

While the telecoms community had little doubt G.fast (more prosaically known as ITU G.701) would get the green light, since major operators and equipment vendors, especially in the United States and Europe have been lab and field testing the technology's capabilities (and limitations) for over a year now, there are still numerous questions concerning the technology, including technical and operational issues, vendor-to-vendor interoperability, and just where G.fast deployment makes commercial sense.

The Broadband Forum (BBF), which has been tracking the ITU timescales, has already indicated the University of New Hampshire's world-leading InterOperability labs would be leading its planned G.fast certification programme. Initial product testing is expected to commence in the first half of next year, to be followed soon with a series of interoperability tests. Certification is scheduled for next fall, a remarkably fast track for a communications technology first mooted in 2011.

G.fast

Not surprisingly, chip suppliers such as Broadcom, Ikanos, Israeli start-up Sckipio (founded to focus on this technology) and German group Lantiq (the latter two having joined forces to develop designs for residential gateways) have been very gung-ho about G.fast. All claim significant contributions towards the final spec that has been ratified.

At the system level, those making the biggest waves include Alcatel-Lucent, Adtran and Chinese conglomerate Huawei.

While the equipment/operator trials are said to have been pretty successful, some operators have indicated they are not yet convinced just how many of their customers will need a product offering hundreds of megabits per customer.

One of the strongest proponents of the technology, BT, which recently said it has achieved an aggregate downstream/upstream data rate of 720Mbit/s in its first, experimental trials using existing copper plant at loop distances of about 20m, also indicated it has identified difficult, but not insurmountable operational issues. The British telco suggested G.fast will most likely need to support 20 times as many nodes as the existing VDSL technology it has already deployed.

An identified headache for vendors will be the number of deployment scenarios for G.fast—the BBF has described 23 to date, including deployment on poles, in manholes, in multi-dwelling unit basements and flat floors.


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