Broadband Forum CEO Claims 800Mbps G.Fast Is Not Just Another DSL Tech - ISPreview UK
The CEO of the Broadband Forum, Robin Mersh, has said that critics who claim the future G.fast (aka – FTTC2 / ITU G.9700) broadband technology is “just another DSL” solution are “way off the mark“. According to Mersh, G.fast is a “giant step away from DSL” that will deliver download speeds from “300 to 800 Mbps” via a fast and cost-effective deployment.

The G.fast standard (ITU G.9700) is currently going through its final approval process and many expect this to be completed by around Q3 2014 (here). Meanwhile BT has already confirmed the first Huawei-based trials of G.fast at its Adastral Park facility near Ipswich in Suffolk (here) and they’ve had it in the labs, touching 800Mbps+, for even longer.

The new technology is similar to BT’s existing up to 80Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) service, which is currently being rolled out across the United Kingdom, although it’s designed to operate over much shorter copper lines (below 250 metres) and will utilise more radio spectrum (17 – 106MHz+) with improve noise cancellation (vectoring). Target speeds from 150Mbps and up to potentially approaching 800 – 1000Mbps are frequently talked about.

G.fast is often also envisaged as working alongside other solutions like Fibre to the Distribution Point (FTTdp) / Fibre to the Remote Node (FTTRN), which would help to reduce the “last mile” run of copper cable (i.e. between street cabinets and homes) by replacing more (but not all) of it with a fibre optic line. Not only do both methods boost normal FTTC speeds but they’d give a huge boost to G.fast, which loves short copper.

But critics of G.fast have complained that the upgrade is just another DSL solution that’s designed to delay the huge spend needed to deploy a full fibre optic infrastructure (e.g. Fibre-to-the-Home FTTH) and they claim it would still suffer from performance problems due to its reliance on some copper.

Concerns over G.fast’s “parasitical power” setup (i.e. it works without mains power by drawing a small amount of current from the customers router), as well as its own rollout cost and technically tricky deployment have also repeatedly been raised. But Mersh isn’t worried.
Robin Mersh said:

Those who think G.fast is just another DSL technology are way off the mark – G.fast is coming fast and it’s going to make an enormous difference for service providers and their customers. G.fast is a giant step away from DSL, borrowing the best from ADSL and VDSL to create a new generation of technology that is lower in power, more efficient, faster and easier to install.

Customer self-install environment was included in the design of G.fast from the beginning and will therefore bring significant cost savings. Alternative technologies, such as VDSL2, were not designed from the start for a customer self-install, it was always assumed that the technician would install it
.”
Mersh was speaking ahead of today’s Fixed Access Networks Summit in Berlin (Germany), where everything from fibre optic to copper line based broadband and phone solutions will be discussed. The Broadband Forum believes that G.fast is the way forward and will become a major solution for helping ISPs to meet the European Union’s broadband penetration targets (i.e. 30Mbps+ for all by 2020 with 50% subscribed to a 100Mbps+ service).

Last month Israel-based modem maker Sckipio similarly predicted that pressure from rival cable and FTTH platforms would push telecoms operators, such as BT, to begin rolling out G.fast much sooner than expected (here); with some predicted to start their roll-outs as soon as 2015.

But the standard is not yet complete and in the UK other solutions, such as Vectoring (designed to reduce interference on FTTC/VDSL lines), would ideally need to be rolled out first before G.fast can be trialled outside of BT’s facility. Vectoring is currently still being tested in several areas but we’ve yet to hear of any concrete plans from BT for its national deployment.

Needless to say that 2015 seems too soon for the UK and, assuming all goes well, 2017 might be a more viable target but right now that’s just speculation. BT could still choose not to pursue G.fast, although based on their current plans we wouldn’t want to bet against it.