Alcatel-Lucent’s research arm – Bell Labs, has announced a prototype technology that enables copper lines to deliver 1 Gigabits per second symmetrical (simultaneous download and upload) broadband speeds. It also, perhaps with a press release in mind, demonstrated 10 Gbps over two pairs of copper lines.
The new technology is called “XG-FAST”, which is an extension of G.fast technology so significant that all the letters have to be capitalised. The G.fast standard is in the process of being finalised by the ITU, and uses a frequency range of 106 MHz to deliver up to 500 Mbps over 100 meters. XG-FAST uses higher frequencies – up to 500 MHz – that allow higher speeds over shorter distances. The symmetrical 1 Gbps demo was over 70m at 350 MHz and the 10 Gbps one was over 30m at 500 MHz.
The main practical significance of all this broadband speed showing off is the potential to overcome the bottleneck currently inhibiting fiber-to-the-home (FTTH), or indeed fiber-to-the-whatever (FTTX), which concerns the final few meters to the final connection that typically still uses copper, rather than fiber. If speeds over copper can match those over fiber then problem solved, in principle.
“The Bell Labs speed record is an amazing achievement, but crucially in addition they have identified a new benchmark for ‘real-world’ applications for ultra-broadband fixed access,” said Federico Guillén, President of Alcatel-Lucent’s Fixed Networks business.
“XG-FAST can help operators accelerate FTTH deployments, taking fiber very close to customers without the major expense and delays associated with entering every home. By making 1 gigabit symmetrical services over copper a real possibility, Bell Labs is offering the telecommunications industry a new way to ensure no customer is left behind when it comes to ultra-broadband access.”
It doesn’t look like we should hold our breath for 1 Gbps broadband to the home anytime soon, however. The preceding G.fast tech is not expected to become commercially available until 2015. But things seem to be progressing nicely in terms of broadband speeds, which should be especially good news for the 4K TV industry at least.
Incidentally Alcatel Lucent also announced this week that it has been selected by Vodafone as a “supplier of reference” for LTE metro cells with integrated Wi-Fi capability. This is part of Voda’s Project Spring investment program focused on developing hetnets (heterogeneous networks) in urban areas, with the aim of improving mobile broadband performance in densely populated areas.