There's a global appetite for G.fast as a high-speed broadband technology alternative to investing heavily in fiber-to-the-home/premises (FTTH/P) rollouts, according to Adtran.
The access equipment vendor claims it is engaged in G.fast trials with 60 operators around the world (more on that number later). Why so much interest? Well, it's all about operators wanting to squeeze as much broadband potential as they can out of their access lines: G.fast is a technology that can significantly boost the broadband speeds that can be offered over existing copper lines, albeit over short distances (within 100 meters). There is, however, a great deal of optimism that G.fast can be deployed in existing street cabinets already used to house vectoring technology, a scenario that would make G.fast economically attractive to many more operators that are looking at alternatives to investing in FTTH/P.
One of the most vocal supporters of G.fast is BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), which has three field trials of the technology underway in the UK. It has been driving the vendor community to develop and deliver G.fast technology that can be deployed in street cabinets up to at least 300 meters from customers' houses/workplaces as well as in distribution points (on telegraph poles or underground) that are within 100 meters of potential users. (See Long-Range, High-Speed Gfast Is Coming – BT.)
Adtran Inc. (Nasdaq: ADTN) is one of the vendors involved in BT's trials: Its 500G Series G.fast gear is being used in the ongoing trial in Huntingdon, UK, where more than 2,000 homes have been G.fast-enabled, with BT reporting broadband speeds of up to 300 Mbit/s over copper connections, though the operator is hoping that in time its G.fast deployments will enable even faster broadband connections that can be competitive with the DOCSIS-fueled broadband offerings from UK cable giant Virgin Media. (See BT Gets G.fast Confidence Boost From Trials.)
BT tells Light Reading that the trials -- one in the town of Gosforth involving about 2,000 homes and a much smaller multi-dwelling unit technical trial in the Welsh city of Swansea as well as in Huntingdon -- are still ongoing but there are no further conclusions or results to share at present. The operator says everything is going to plan and that the next stage will be to start commercial rollout in the next financial year (April 2016-March 2017).
Adtran isn't the only network equipment vendor involved in BT's G.fast trials, though: As Light Reading has noted previously, Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) (as a result of its Alcatel-Lucent acquisition) and Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. are also involved. Huawei and Nokia/Alcatel-Lucent have also provided trial customer premises equipment (CPE) units, along with Technicolor (Euronext Paris: TCH; NYSE: TCH) and Zinwell, according to a report from ISPreview this week, but BT points out these are just trial units and shouldn't be taken as an indication of which companies will supply CPE units for commercial rollout.
So what about the other 59 trials Adtran has ongoing? That number sounds very impressive but the BT engagement is more advanced than most. The bulk of those engagements have been lab trials, "but we expect that 2016 will be the year that G.fast moves from the lab and into the field for limited trials, broader pilots and early deployments," says Adtran's CTO for the EMEA and Asia/Pacific regions, Ronan Kelly, in an email to Light Reading. The identity of those operators isn't something Adtran is willing to share currently, though it's very likely that names such as AT&T, CenturyLink and Deutsche Telekom would be among them.
In the meantime, Adtran is hoping for a better 2016 financially following a year-on-year dip in its full-year revenues, down nearly 5% at $600.1 million, and operating profits down by more than 70% to $13.5 million.
But the signs are promising -- the second half of 2015 saw an upturn in US revenues and financial analysts such as Michael Genovese at MKM Partners and Simon Leopold at Raymond James Financial Inc. (NYSE: RJF) expect that market to drive sales growth in both 2016 and 2017, thanks in part to the CAF2 (Connected America Fund) programs. (See Adtran Reports Q4 and Adtran Outlook Will Brighten in 2016 – Analyst.)
— Ray Le Maistre, , Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading