By mid-2014 network operators should be conducting trials of broadband equipment that will provide customers with speeds as high as a gigabit per second without requiring the installation of fiber all the way to the home, said Kurt Raaflaub, senior manager of carrier networks product marketing for Adtran, in an interview. The International Telecommunications Union is expected to finalize the standard for the technology, known as G.fast, before the end of the year and equipment supporting the technology should be available even sooner, Raaflaub said.
The G.fast standard will call for network operators to bring fiber to a distribution point serving four to 16 homes, with traditional copper phone wire being used for a short distance from the distribution point to the home.
This may sound a lot like DSL, but as Raaflaub explained, network operators participating in the standards process wanted to make the technology “more than VDSL 3.” A key goal was to include vectoring and reverse power to enable the technology to be “part of gigabit service delivery,” Raaflaub said.
Adtran is working on a device that would be installed at the distribution point to support G.fast service delivery. As Raaflaub explained, the device could be used in combination with GPON, replacing one of the ONTs that would normally be installed at the end of a fiber link at a customer’s home.
Raaflaub anticipates that network operators will connect the copper wiring from each of the homes served by the Adtran device, even though not all of the homes initially will take ultra high-bandwidth service. That approach will enable the operator to avoid a truck roll for each new customer. Instead the operator would just need to ship new customer premises equipment to the customer, who would install it.
In a typical PON configuration all of the homes served from the distribution point would share 2.4 Gbps, which Raaflaub said should be sufficient to support all of the homes connected, if needed. Not all of the users will need a full gigabit of bandwidth at all times, he noted.
Raaflaub declined to provide pricing on the G.fast equipment Adtran plans to offer. But he noted that network operators want the installation to pay for itself even if only one or two customers connected to the distribution point take the high-speed offering.
Adtran already has experience with network topologies similar to the one envisioned for G.fast, as the company’s ultra broadband Ethernet offering, launched a few years ago, also relied on fiber to a distribution point and copper phone wiring from there to individual homes. Ultra broadband Ethernet supported speeds of 100 Mbps to each end user and as Adtran Director of Marketing and Communications Kevin Morgan explained, “the line code on ultra broadband Ethernet was an Ethernet PHY” but “in this case it’s a successor of …DSL — a DSL variant versus Ethernet.”
Despite the protocol dissimilarities, however, G.fast devices will face the same installation challenges that Adtran already has addressed with its UBE offering – chiefly the need to support various form factors for installation on poles, underground and elsewhere.
Raaflaub and Morgan noted that major telcos from around the world were involved in the development of the G.fast standard. But they also expect to see cable operators using the technology to bring service to apartment buildings where the cableco would bring fiber to the building and use previously installed phone wiring inside the building.