If vectoring isn't quite up to the job of satisfying your bandwidth requirements, have no fear, because supervectoring is here.
It might not be kitted out in blue spandex and tight red pants, but the newer technology packs a superhero-like punch in comparison with lesser vectoring beings. While standard vectoring can boost copper-based VDSL connections to a maximum of 100 Mbit/s by cutting out the interference between lines, supervectoring can deliver as much as 300 Mbit/s, according to broadband equipment maker Adtran.
As with other copper-fortifying broadband technologies, however, not all supervectoring is the same. Vendors are in a race to develop boxes that can support more customers and be used in higher-density locations, and it's starting to get interesting.
Just last month, China's Huawei flagged its release of the industry's "largest-capacity" solution, allowing a single device to support up to 384 subscriber lines. But Adtran Inc. (Nasdaq: ADTN) -- which identifies Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and Finland's Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) as its chief supervectoring rivals -- claims that a supervectoring product due for launch early next year will support as many as 432 lines. (See Huawei Releases Large-Capacity SuperVector Solution to Triple FTTC Site Speed.)
Asked to remark on Adtran's plans, Huawei said it had "no comment at this time."
Adtran also says it has the largest supervectoring deployment in the world right now, with one customer using a product that currently supports up to 288 lines. The vendor cannot disclose the identity of the service provider in question, but Light Reading believes it to be Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT).
Having previously embarked on a widespread rollout of vectoring, the German telecom incumbent has more recently thrown its weight behind supervectoring in an effort to keep pace with cable competitors touting higher-speed broadband offerings.
Supervectoring certainly isn’t for everyone. Among operators trying to sweat their copper assets for as long as possible, the UK's BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) has taken a look at the menu of broadband options and settled on G.fast, which uses much higher frequencies to pump up connectivity speeds over copper lines. In ideal circumstances, G.fast might even provide gigabit-speed connectivity, according to Ronan Kelly, Adtran's chief technology officer for the EMEA and APAC regions.
Thanks to technology developments, the G.fast economics have also improved. Instead of introducing G.fast at distribution points near homes and businesses -- as technology developers originally intended -- BT plans to install equipment at its fiber-served street cabinets, which are typically about 300 meters from customer premises.
But a number of other European service providers do not have that option, according to Adtran's Kelly. "There are some for which the bulk of the network is not within 300 meters and G.fast falls off very fast," he tells Light Reading.
Some operators also appear to lack the distribution points needed for a more conventional deployment of G.fast. That includes Deutsche Telekom, which is likely to use G.fast only in building basements, where the length of the copper loop would clearly not be a concern.
Step up supervectoring. Similarly to G.fast, the technology works by extending the frequency range, to an upper limit of 35 MHz (VDSL networks operate in the 2-17MHz range). It also uses the same tone spacing as VDSL, which allows the technologies to co-exist amicably. "You can manage some ports using VDSL and others with supervectoring in the same vectoring engine, which is quite different from what you have with G.fast," says Kelly.
With supervectoring, importantly, Deutsche Telekom can take advantage of existing VDSL infrastructure to make the rollout more economical.
While a growing number of telcos believe the future is about all-fiber networks, enough are investing in their copper-line capabilities to ensure that supervectoring will remain relevant for some time yet.
— Iain Morris, , News Editor, Light Reading