New broadband standard offers fibre optic speeds across copper phoneline

The growth of fibre optic broadband may have received a knock this week after a new standard of super fast broadband that can be delivered through existing copper telephone wires received first stage approval by the UN telecoms regulator.

Named G.fast, the standard is designed to deliver super fast downloads up to a distance of 250 metres, eliminating the need and expense of installing fibre optic cables between distribution points and people's homes.

The UN body which approved the standard, the International Telecommunications Union said that G.fast promises speeds of up to 1Gbps. BT's fibre optic broadband currently advertises a speed less than a tenth of that at 76Mbps.

The service will enable flexible upstream and downstream speeds to support bandwidth-intensive applications such as streaming Ultra-HDTV movies, uploading high-resolution video and photo libraries to cloud-based storage, and communicating via HD video said the ITU.

The standard was first tested by Alcatel-Lucent and Telekom Austria just last month. The trial achieved a maximum speed of 1.1Gbps across 70 metres and 800Mbps across 100 metres over a single, good-quality cable, according to Alcatel-Lucent. On older, unshielded cables speeds reached 500Mbps across 100 metres, it said.

After passing the first approval stage, which looks at ways of ensuring G.fast equipment will not interfere with broadcast services such as FM radio, the ITU hopes that the new standard will be fully approved by early 2014.

Hamadoun Touré, ITU's Secretary-General said: "Since the early days of the World Wide Web, people around the world have accessed the vast resource that has become the Internet via ITU standards.

"I applaud our membership for continuing to show great leadership in the development of these specifications that bring broadband into our homes at ever increasing speeds and at ever greater efficiencies."

"G.fast is an important standard for service providers globally," said Tom Starr, the chairman of the group which oversees the G.fast effort.

"Service providers will be able to deliver fibre-like performance more quickly and more affordably than with any other approach."

Image credit: Adrienne Serra