Deutsche Telekom claims to have recorded connection speeds of 550 Mbit/s during recent demonstrations of a next-generation hybrid router.
Those speeds are way in excess of the 250 Mbit/s the operator has previously claimed it can provide using a router that is already being sold in Germany. They might help in the fight against German cable operators offering much higher-speed services than Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) can provide on its vectoring-enabled VDSL network.
The German operator's T-Labs R&D unit says tests were carried out on a new prototype at the start of the year using super-vectoring and LTE carrier aggregation technologies.
Super-vectoring extends the frequency range over which broadband signals travel on VDSL networks, while carrier aggregation combines spectrum channels -- typically from different frequency bands -- to boost connection speeds. (See DT Expands Its Vectoring Commitments.)
The operator says both network access technologies will be available in the live network of Telekom Deutschland GmbH , Deutsche Telekom's domestic subsidiary, in the future.
Each technology is said to have contributed a maximum of 275 Mbit/s during the tests.
In a statement, T-Labs said a new platform it had developed to support the higher-speed services was a "pure software solution" and would be suitable for "different hardware and virtualization environments."
Deutsche Telekom began selling its hybrid router in Germany in March last year and has previously indicated the product may be launched in other countries. (See DT Preps Fast Hybrid Routers Beyond Germany.)
While the operator has cited the connection-speed figure of 250 Mbit/s in press releases about the technology, Bruno Jacobfeuerborn, Deutsche Telekom's chief technology officer, told analysts at an early 2015 capital markets day that 550 Mbit/s would eventually become possible, thanks to super-vectoring investments. (See Speed Battle Rages in Germany.)
So far, however, take-up of the hybrid router has been relatively modest. In its annual report for 2015, Deutsche Telekom claimed to have signed up just 155,000 customers -- mainly in rural areas -- by December, when it had 12.6 million broadband customers in total.
A change in marketing tack might help to spur adoption. Until now, the operator has largely positioned the router as a speed booster for customers with poor fixed-line connections. "We try to focus specifically on areas where we have lower bandwidth for fixed," said Niek Jan van Damme, Telekom Deutschland's managing director, during a conversation with Light Reading at last month's Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona. (See DT's Jan van Damme Flexes Quads.)
Deutsche Telekom CEO Timotheus Höttges has also played down suggestions the router could be an answer to cable competitors, some of which now claim to offer services of up to 400 Mbit/s. (See Tele Columbus to Launch 400Mbit/s Service and DT's Höttges Says Hybrid Is 'Not Answer to Cable'.)
Jacobfeuerborn, however, has specifically mentioned the prospect of competing in a "cable footprint" with a 550 Mbit/s capability.
The question is whether such speeds will be achievable in a commercial environment. "Theoretically you would get 200 Mbit/s or 250 Mbit/s in the middle of the night," said Jan van Damme when discussing the existing product at MWC. During the day, when many other customers are using broadband services, speeds are likely to be much lower.
At least, it seems, Deutsche Telekom will not have to provide the hybrid router as part of a wholesale offering following recent legislative moves.
Last July, a small rival called 1&1 Telecom asked Germany regulatory authorities to make Deutsche Telekom offer a wholesale hybrid service -- which would have included access to the incumbent's 4G network -- but its application was rejected in December, according to Deutsche Telekom's annual report.
— Iain Morris, , News Editor, Light Reading