G.fast in the Spotlight

G.fast announcements are starting to roll in during the run-up to next week's Broadband World Forum in London.

The technology, which supercharges copper connections by increasing the frequency range, received a massive boost last year when UK fixed-line incumbent BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) put G.fast at the very heart of its ultra-fast broadband strategy. (See Long-Range, High-Speed Gfast Is Coming – BT.)

A year on, and with trials still in progress, questions linger about G.fast's real-world potential and, indeed, its ability to meet European demands for high-speed broadband connectivity. (See G.fast Could Use a Boost.)

Yet the technology is undoubtedly improving. Next year, an Amendment 3 to the G.fast standard will double the frequency range and make it much easier for service providers to use G.fast from street cabinets served by fiber, instead of deploying it at distribution points close to customer premises. That should make the economics of a widespread G.fast deployment look far more attractive.

In the meantime, a recently ratified Amendment 2 is nudging G.fast into a faster lane in the broadband superhighway through techniques such as higher bit loading and by increasing the transit power. Innovations like dynamic time allocation (DTA), which adjusts downstream or upstream capacity depending on specific circumstances, could also lead to major bandwidth improvements.

Want to know more about G.fast? Head to the Broadband World Forum on Oct. 18-20 in London.

Next week's show will provide an opportunity to see a few of these technologies in demonstration. But Light Reading here provides a quick round-up of the most significant vendor updates over the last few days:

  • Chipset vendor Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) unveiled a new "family" of devices offering performance improvements over previous chips, including DTA support as well as fallback to VDSL, an older broadband technology. Chips from Broadcom are to feature in the next phase of BT's G.fast rollout, during which the operator plans to hook up around 140,000 premises by March next year. "We are encouraged that Broadcom has developed a scalable G.fast solution that is aligned with our roadmap," said Peter Bell, the network portfolio director of BT's Openreach -branded infrastructure business, in Broadcom's statement.

  • Sckipio Technologies , the other big G.fast chip vendor, alerted the industry to the availability of a distribution point unit (DPU) with 24 ports, up from a previous maximum of 16, to support more subscribers. It also began marketing a reference design for a single-port G.fast DPU, designed for use with GPON fiber technology in building basements. In addition, it claimed to have teamed up with Calix Inc. (NYSE: CALX), a broadband equipment vendor, to make DTA available in 16-port DPUs. Previously, said Sckipio, "DTA was only available in a low crosstalk environment such as coax applications or in single line scenarios."

  • Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), another vendor that figures in BT's next-phase G.fast plans, said it had expanded its portfolio of "micro-node" products to support G.fast deployments over longer distances and speed up rollout. The new products include an eight-port micro-node, a line card designed to aid the introduction of cabinet-based G.fast and a cloud-based controller for automating and simplifying some of the maintenance and deployment activities. Unsurprisingly, Nokia managed to name-check BT Openreach when mentioning its new line card.

    Expect to hear a lot more about the technology in London next week.

    — Iain Morris, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, News Editor, Light Reading

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