This post is by George Ginis, senior vice president of DSL marketing for Assia
Attending my first communications course in 1992, I was fascinated to learn that data transmission had been demonstrated over copper twisted pairs at speeds close to 1Mbps using modems that were the size of big boxes. The professor proceeded to dismiss the accomplishment as rather futile, given the “near-infinite” bandwidth of fibre. Fast-forward to 2013: DSL is used for broadband access for almost half a billion connections, which carry the bulk of data traffic for several billions of mobile devices. Vectored VDSL is about to deliver 100 Mbps services, and g.fast is promising access speeds of 1Gbps.
Having first studied the theory of DSL vectoring more than a decade ago, I am excited to see how this technology has evolved from an idea to hardware products shipped today, with the first vectored service launches expected in early 2014. Although I marvel at the immense complexity in today’s vectored VDSL hardware, I have huge respect and appreciation for the enormous effort required by service providers to deliver new services using this ground-breaking technology. Based on many interactions with service providers and my own DSL operations experience, here is my brief summary of the service provider’s roadmap to transition to vectoring, outlined in more detail in our Smart Vectoring white paper.
First, service providers must upgrade the network for vectoring. They must select the sites for upgrade based on projections of speed. They must use loop diagnostics to plan outside plant maintenance required for the upgrade. And they must configure the equipment to ensure no degradation to legacy services in either the downstream or the upstream direction.
Second, service providers must upgrade customers to vectored speeds. They must apply qualification rules that accurately identify for each line which services can be reliably delivered, and which should not be attempted. Although they should motivate and facilitate customer-self install processes, they must know which lines require a technician intervention and act accordingly.
Finally, service providers must ensure the highest level of quality for both vectored and legacy services. They must automatically detect lines with degraded performance and change their configuration to address the issue without human intervention. And they must enable contact centres and field technicians with the proper tools to diagnose and take action on vectoring-related faults.
The above capabilities require more than DSL hardware. I believe that the best practice for service providers is to obtain these capabilities through a sophisticated software-based management system for broadband access, able to collect and analyse a very large amount of data from the network, and able to produce outputs used by network operations, marketing departments, contact centres, and field technician teams. The functions of such a system can then enable a profitable transition path to vectoring.