Going Gigabit with G.fast in stealth mode: Prepare your networks now

As service providers face increasing demand for high access bandwidth from end users who want to get higher quality video and immersive experiences in their homes, the pressure for operators to upgrade their networks to accommodate these services has never been greater.

But with many telcos still feeling the pinch from the impact of OTT players, completely overhauling legacy architecture with, for example, new fibre deployments, is often out of the question. So how can operators provide the gigabit services required by consumers on their existing infrastructures?

Copper vs. Fibre

As a relatively new technology that supports access bandwidths up to one gigabit per second over existing copper lines, G.fast provides an equivalent to what is generally possible with fibre. The limitation is that the copper lines cannot be too long – at most a few hundred metres. This gives G.fast a complementary role in service providers’ overall ultra-broadband strategies.

While fibre can deliver the gigabit broadband consumers are demanding it is often expensive and complex to deploy, especially in an area where the infrastructure is already in place, with the trickiest part being the last few metres between the cabinet and the premises being connected – you have to dig and get access to the user’s living unit.

That is where G.fast comes in, because you can use it over the last few metres of the existing copper. So you run fibre until the last few metres, and then you switch over to G.fast. This allows operators to deliver an end-to-end one-gigabit service at a much reduced cost.

Resurrecting Copper

When it comes to taking advantage of this technology, we are in an early market phase; as of yet there are no sizeable commercial deployments anywhere in the world. However, standardisation is complete, chipsets are becoming available, operators are evaluating it and the first big deployments are expected to come as early as next year.

For operators looking to deploy the technology immediately, there is more good news – a number of commercial products are already available and being deployed today. For example, we are working with a tier one operator today that is deploying a new high-end gateway with G.fast integrated. By 2017 several hundred thousand of those gateways will be deployed around that operator’s country.

Don’t tell anyone but…

What is interesting about this particular carrier is that it does not plan to immediately enable G.fast. Instead, the operator wants to create a nationwide footprint and as soon as that is done – and a sufficient number of G.fast gateways are deployed – they will turn on the G.fast capability and start to offer commercial services. We expect this to happen in 2017 and then see G.fast adoption numbers to grow over the following years.

For operators which don’t want to do away with their so-called Victorian infrastructures, this approach is absolutely the right one to take. Between now and those first big deployments expected next year, we will see G.fast move beyond trials and proofs of concept.

Commercial products are already being produced and commercial deployments will soon follow and those that act now will ensure they don’t lag behind in the gigabit race.

Karel Adriaensen, Director of Product Management at Technicolor

Image source: Shutterstock/ Supphachai Salaeman