G.fast, the latest specification set for copper-based broadband access delivery, will play a major role in European broadband access networks, said Robin Mersh, CEO of the Broadband Forum, in a speech delivered last Tuesday ahead of the Fixed Access Networks Summit in Berlin.
The technology, now in specifications development within the ITU-T as ITU-T G.9701, “Fast Access to Subscriber Terminals - Physical layer specification,” promises to deliver speeds similar to fiber to the home (FTTH) over very short copper runs. G.fast will leverage an architecture called “fiber to the distribution point” that will use very small terminals for the fiber-to-copper transition that can be powered from the customer location. The standard will spell out three tiers of service – 500 Mbps downstream at 100 m, 200 Mbps at 200 m, and 150 Mbps at 250 m. It also will point the way towards 1-Gbps downstream rates, which industry sources predict will run only over copper loops of less than 100 m.
The ITU originally expected standards ratification this month. However, industry sources now say that milestone likely won’t be reached until the end of the year.
Regardless of when it arrives – and prototype systems could appear by mid-year – the technology will prove a boon to European carriers attempting to meet their Europe 2020 goals, 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,” he told his audience last week. “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.”
Mersh believes that carriers will encourage their customers to install at least some of the necessary hardware themselves. “Customer self-install environment was included in the design of G.fast from the beginning and will therefore bring significant cost savings,” he stated. “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.”
To support the coming wave of G.fast installations, the Broadband Forum has begun development of a global G.fast testing program. The program will include functional, interoperability, and performance testing. However, the Forum is still trying to drum up service provider support for the effort, particularly to help define requirements and test cases.
“We need to continue working with service providers in order to develop a program based on their common business requirements so that it can be leveraged for a quicker path to interoperability in a multi-vendor environment,” Mersh said. Those interested in helping can find more information about the G.fast certification program at http://www.broadband-forum.org/technical/technicalwip.php.
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