BT Step Towards Gigabit Speeds

BT today unveiled the results of new field trials that show ‘ultrafast’ broadband – with combined downstream and upstream speeds of up to one Gigabit per second (1000 Mbps) – can be delivered via a mix of fibre and copper.

Previously it was thought such speeds would require a dedicated business linei or a fibre optic cable to be laid all the way from a telephone exchange to a premises, a relatively expensive, disruptive and time consuming process.

BT, which is due to open a new ultrafast broadband lab at its Adastral Park R&D centre in Ipswich, says it is greatly encouraged by the potential of Fibre To The Distribution Point (FTTdp) ‘G.FAST’ technology – where fibre is instead rolled out to telephone poles or junction (footway) boxes located close to homes and businesses.

During the G.FAST trials, downstream speeds of around 800Mbps were achieved over a 19m length of copper, combined with upstream speeds of more than 200Mbps. Impressive speeds of around 700/200Mbps were also achieved over longer lines of 66m, a distance that encompasses around 80 per cent of such connections. As well as delivering ultrafast speeds, the technology also offers the flexibility to tailor the allocation of the total 1Gbps speed according to a users’ needs.

BT’s fibre network – which is being rolled out by its local access network business Openreach – currently passes more than 20 million UK premises using a mix of Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) and Fibre to the Cabinet technology (FTTC).

FTTC, the more common of the two technologies, currently delivers downstream speeds of up to 80Mbps, giving residential customers plenty of capacity to enjoy the online world todayii. Openreach has doubled the speed of this product in recent years and BT believes potential enhancements such as vectoring can improve speeds further.

FTTP, where the fibre runs all the way to the premises, is capable of significantly faster speeds than FTTC but is considerably more expensive to deploy, leading BT to use it in targeted areas where it offers the best solution for the customer.

With FTTdp, the fibre is closer to the premises than with FTTC, meaning the copper link is much shorter. G.FAST technology is then used to maximise data capacity over the copper and uses much higher frequencies, plus advanced ‘crosstalk’ cancellation techniques, to make ultrafast speeds possible.

FTTdp is potentially a more cost effective and simpler solution than both FTTP and dedicated business lines such as Ethernet. This is because less fibre and civil engineering is required. It also has the potential to be less disruptive for the customer given it is likely it could be a “self-install” product with no need for home engineering visits.

Joe Garner, CEO Openreach said: “Our fibre rollout is making a huge positive difference to this country, already helping 82% of people have access to superfast broadbandiii.

“Businesses obviously demand even greater bandwidth and can already access speeds of up to 10Gbps via dedicated business lines that we provide across the country. But customer needs will continue to change, and that’s why we’re deploying a mix of current technologies as well as testing new ones. We will continue to innovate so that we meet our customers’ needs today, and in the future.”

Dr Tim Whitley, MD of Research and Innovation, BT Group said: “We see G.FAST as a very promising technology with significant potential – that’s why we’re putting some of our best minds on the case to assess it fully in a purpose-built facility.

“BT has a long history of pushing the boundaries in telecommunications, from the earliest days of the electric telegraph to today’s global fibre networks, and it’s crucial that we stay ahead of the curve for the benefit of our customers and shareholders.”

Over the coming months BT researchers will use the new laboratory to study the full technical capabilities of G.FAST hardware designed by leading system vendors such as Adtran, Alcatel Lucent and Huawei.

Whilst commercial G.FAST equipment is still immature, there have been determined efforts by the ITU to accelerate the standardisation of the technology, with the approval of the G.9701 recommendation expected in December.

Meet BT Wholesale at the Convergence Summit South –

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine