BT has unveiled a new technology it is testing that could significantly boost the speed of copper broadband networks far beyond anything available today.
The technology is called G.Fast and in trials it has shown that speeds of 1Gbps, mixing download and upload, are possible running over copper connections between an exchange and a home or business.
BT said tests at its Adastral Park research lab in Ipswich have seen speeds of 786Mbps over a 19m piece of copper and uploads of 231Mbps. Over a longer 66m copper connection, tests achieved downloads of 696Mbps and uploads of 200Mbps.
Previously it was thought that only complete fibre deployments all the way to a premise could offer such high speeds.
The 66m results are particularly notable as BT said this is the average length of a copper connection between a premise and the BT network so there is significant potential for G.Fast to boost broadband connections around the UK.
G.Fast works in two ways: by taking fibre closer to the premise by running it from a cabinet to a telephone pole or footway box. This is complemented by a new transmission technology that reduces the 'crosstalk' from other copper lines. BT likens this to noise-cancelling technology in headphones.
There is still a way to go before G.Fast enters the mainstream market, though, with the standard for the technology – G.9701 – yet to be agreed by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
However, this is expected by December. BT could start offering commercial availability of G.Fast by late 2015, although whether it would roll out such a service would be dependent on the demand for these high speeds.
The potential for the technology is significant, though, because while the cost of rolling fibre to all premises would be prohibitively expensive, and disruptive, G.Fast could prove a much more efficient way of meeting future broadband needs.
Currently BT is working on fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) deployments, to offer speeds of around 80Mbps upload, which would be enough to use most web speeds, however future-proofing networks is vital as data demands will only grow.
Services such as 4K TV and 5G networks will require ever-increasing amounts of data to be transmitted. Chinese telecoms firm Huawei has just announced a $4bn research push on fibre due to this predicted data demand.
Dr Tim Whitley, MD of Research and Innovation for BT Group, said the company was always keen to push the boundaries of fibre technology and had some of its top staff working on the innovation.
“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.
The announcement comes in the same week that a group of Labour activitsts said the Labour Party should promise 1Gbps broadband speeds for all as part of its election manifesto.
BT rival Virgin Media also recently touted a new broadband innovation regarding the laying of fibre, with a new digging method that could radically speed up the deployment of networks.
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