Ultrafast broadband speeds in big cities are set to tumble after a laboratory set a new net speed record over copper lines that will eventually lower the use of fibre-optic cabling.
Bell Labs, which is owned by Alcatel-Lucent, hit a speed of 10Gbps inside its own laboratory using two pairs of 30m long standard telephone cables to set the mark.
“It will enable operators to provide internet connection speeds that are indistinguishable from fibre-to-the-home services, a major business benefit in locations where it is not physically, economically or aesthetically viable to lay new fibre cables all the way into residences," said Alcatel-Lucent, according to the BBC. "Instead, fibre can be brought to the curbside, wall or basement of a building and the existing copper network used for the final few metres."
A team of engineers at Bell Labs’ Antwerp offices developed a technology called XG-Fast to set the record and it is built on top of the older G-fast specification. To develop the kit it used a wider frequency range of up to 500MHz to transmit data instead of the 106MHz that is utilised by G.fast.
Unfortunately the change in range means XG-Fast only functions over shorter distances translating to a one-way data transfer of 10Gbps over 30m or a simultaneous 1Gbps upload and 1Gbps download across 70m.
Sceptics have already pointed to the fact that the new copper cabling won’t have any impact on net speeds unless customers are in big cities, due to the distances between telephone exchanges.
"The problem that rural properties have is that they are usually very far away from the nearest telephone exchange - you can usually measure it in miles," said Chris Green, principal technology analyst at the Davies Murphy Group consultancy. "In order to get any of these speeds you would need to be close enough to your exchange - or fibre optic cable connected to it - that you could pretty much throw a stone at it from your door."
The 10Gbps record is way short of the 1.4Tbps record that Alcatel-Lucent set in November using a fibre optic link between a research campus in Suffolk and the iconic BT Tower in central London.
Image Credit: Flickr (Scott Wilcoxson)
Wireless networking, meanwhile, is also at a level way beyond the copper record after Wi-Fi developed by a German lab in October 2013 reached speed of 100Gbps when tested.