Every year BBWF is bursting at the seams with the latest technologies from the world of telcos. And one which is spilling into all areas of the Forum this year is ITU-T G.9701, or as it is better known – G.Fast.
For 2014, the Access Evolution agenda is packed full of exciting trial results and intensive debates around G.Fast…
So what’s all the fuss about?
FTTH is expensive – there’s no two ways about it. So any technology which can provide operators a valid reason to hold off deploying fibre all the way to your front door is a winner. And one that promises gigabit speeds is surely going to be the champion? Enter G.Fast.
The technology can enable speeds of around 200Mbs to 500Mbs over existing copper lines, and may even be able to bump it up to a whopping 1 Gbit/s (or multi-gigabit speeds in the case of “XG-FAST”).
Although these high speeds can only achieved over copper loops shorter than 250m – as the “last mile” is often the most expensive and problematic for operators, it presents an extremely desirable solution.
When can we expect to see it working?
G.Fast technology has evolved a lot in the last 12 months and is developing at an exponential rate. The G.fast standard achieved consent at the International Telecommunications Union in December 2013. Prototype chipset availability is expected any time now, while general availability is expected by the end of this year. This will naturally lead to field and interoperability trials during 2015 and commercial deployments predicted by 2016.
I asked Tony Brown, Senior Analyst at Ovum what he thought the timeline for G.Fast looked like –
“There is no doubt that G.Fast is creating a lot of excitement in the Telco community but we are still a little way yet from seeing this really hit the market in mass volumes.
“We will see some operators – most notably Swisscom – hit the market with some early G.Fast implementations but most operators pursuing the copper-route will be focusing on VDSL Vectoring for the next few years and waiting for the kinks to be ironed out of G.Fast – especially around some areas like chipset inter-operability.”
It was last October that BT in the UK announced their G.Fast trials with Huawei and since then we have heard that TeliaSonera and Telekom Austria are also trialling the technology with Huawei and Alcatel Lucent respectively. There have been rumours that BT will be ready to announce some results from their trials pretty soon with Trevor Linney, Head of Access Network Research’s presentation at BBWF this October:
“G.Fast is an exciting technology that has significant potential. We’ve been trialling its capabilities in our labs at Adastral Park and as a proof of concept in the field, and we’re excited to share some of our findings at the Broadband World Forum this year. Hopefully this will contribute to the global debate around future use of G.Fast.”
Will G.Fast kill the FTTH dream?
It’s important to be clear that G.Fast is not being touted as a replacement to FTTH however I see a lot of articles and blogs claiming that G.Fast will be the death of FTTH, that G.Fast will answer all problems of increased speed and bandwidth demand that operators will not need to deploy FTTH after G.Fast. But is this true? Will FTTH be needed after G.Fast deployment?
Personally I think that if G.Fast performs as well as some claim it could, its success could be incredible. If the technology really solve the challenges of the “last copper mile” and provide users with gigabit speeds to match FTTH – then why would operators need to fork out to drive fibre all the way to each home?
However saying that – whilst much less pricey than FTTH, G.Fast is far from a cheap solution and is not considered by many as future-proof. And with standards yet to be defined it may be a while before there are mass deployments and millions in investments. There will also always be the argument that copper cannot provide the quality connection of fibre so perhaps this will hold up the technology as it competes for FTTH attention. Not only this but many operators are even questioning the need for such fast speeds and the validity of G.Fast as a short-term solution (see my previous interview with Doug Williams, Project Manager at BT).
I asked Kamalini Ganguly, Senior Analyst at Ovum for another opinion:
“FTTH will remain the endgame because once FTTH, especially PON, is deployed; it brings significant operational savings to service providers, in addition to the higher bandwidth possibilities and lower latency.
In fact we are forecasting significant growth in FTTH/B subscribers globally, but of course FTTH is not always possible – and when the technical issues are ironed out G.Fast will be a crucial competitive tool in the portfolios of telco, who want to offer higher speed tiers than VDSL2 vectoring will enable them to do so.”
G.Fast at the Broadband World Forum 2014…
Given the debate on all this I will be interested to hear what you have to say during our Think Tank Debates at BBWF. Are you excited about G.Fast or are you an FTTH advocate? Why not submit your questions for the panellists? Tweet us @BBWorldForum
G.Fast has also spilt out of the conference into The Next Big Thing in our exhibition space which is FREE to attend for all visitors.
Speakers contributing to the G.Fast debate from: