BT trials XG-PON broadband service

BT has launched what it claims is the first ever trial of a 10-Gbps or “hyper-fast” broadband network in a live working environment. The proof of concept trial uses XG-PON technology developed by Chinese vendor ZTE in partnership with Openreach.

BT has launched what it claims is the first ever trial of a 10-Gbps or “hyper-fast” broadband network in a live working environment. The proof of concept trial uses XG-PON technology developed by Chinese vendor ZTE in partnership with Openreach.

Cornwall-based engineering firm Arcol UK Ltd. is the test site for deployment of the new technology where the service runs in tandem with the company’s existing 330-Mbps service on the same fiber.

Arcol is connected by a direct fiber link from its offices to BT’s exchange in Truro, and is the first business in the country to enjoy the record-breaking speeds. The firm has more bandwidth available than was used at the highest peak for the entire Olympics media network, according to BT.

The demonstration aims to show how even faster speeds could be provided in the future over Cornwall’s new fiber-optic infrastructure by upgrading the electronics at the exchange and in user premises.

Potential speeds are so fast that the networking and computer equipment prevent the line from being used at its maximum capacity. And although the direct link between the Truro exchange and Arcol runs at 10 Gbps, the company isn’t connected to the wider Internet at those speeds as there is nothing that can be done on the Web that requires such high speeds, BT says.

Ranulf Scarbrough, program director for the Cornwall superfast broadband program, said, “What is exciting about this trial is that these hyper-fast speeds have been obtained over the exactly the same fiber that carries BT’s fiber broadband services today. All we are doing is changing the electronics at either end.

“This trial shows we are thinking and ready for the future even though there are no current plans to deploy this technology. A lot of this project is about future proofing – making sure that it’s not just the fastest speeds today but that we can continue to be at the cutting edge for 5, 10, 20 years,” Scarbrough added.

The 10-Gbps trial runs over the fiber-optic network established by the Superfast Cornwall program, a pioneering partnership between the EU, BT, and Cornwall Council, which has made fiber-optic broadband available to over 100,000 Cornish homes and businesses (see “BT launches FTTP project in Cornwall”).

Until recently, Arcol’s 40 staff had shared a 1.5-Mbps Internet connection. Then the Superfast Cornwall program delivered high-speed fiber-optic cable to the business park enabling Arcol to connect at 330 Mbps. Alun Morgan, technical director at Arcol, said the ability to connect at such fast speeds was “opening the door” for the company to achieve much more.

"We are still only just discovering the sorts of things we can do with these speeds, such as taking advantage of services like videoconferencing and using a cloud-based ERP system so we can access this information elsewhere, and it has enabled us to be much more efficient and aggressive," he said.

While BT claims this is the first trial of XG-PON in a live network, Verizon previously had conducted at least two field trials of prototype XG-PON1 technology (see “Verizon tests XG PON 10G GPON with Huawei equipment” and “Verizon's second field trial of 10 Gbps XG-PON FTTP affirms FiOS network design”). Both involved connection to a single-family home customer on a live network.

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