LONDON -- Broadband World Forum 2016 -- Swisscom is claiming to be Europe's first operator to have launched ultra-fast broadband services based on G.fast technology.
The Swiss incumbent has been at the forefront of G.fast development over the last few years and has been deploying the technology outside more densely populated urban environments already served by fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) networks.
G.fast delivers a boost to the broadband capability of old-fashioned copper lines but loses effectiveness over longer distances.
While full details of the G.fast service launch have yet to emerge, Swisscom AG (NYSE: SCM) CTO Heinz Herren told attendees at today's Broadband World Forum in London that G.fast is now a commercial reality in Switzerland.
"I am proud that I can announce a commercial rollout of G.fast in Switzerland as of today," he said. "I believe this is the first European launch of G.fast commercially."
Whether any homes and business can already subscribe to G.fast-based services remains unclear, but Swisscom aims to use the technology in conjunction with a so-called fiber-to-the-street deployment that covers nearly two thirds of the population.
By installing G.fast kit at fiber-supplied manholes located about 200 meters from customer premises, the operator reckons it can support connectivity speeds of between 400 Mbit/s and 500 Mbit/s. Herren says there are around half a million such manholes throughout the country.
Swisscom invests about 18% of its revenues in capital expenditure annually and reckons a more widespread deployment of higher-speed fiber-to-the-home technology would prove twice as costly and take twice as long as rolling out G.fast.
While G.fast over distances of 200 meters will not be able to support gigabit-speed connections, Herren is confident that 500 Mbit/s will be more than enough for the average Swiss household for many years to come.
"We can't let this bandwidth race go on because we need to be able to monetize the infrastructure," he said. "There are some funny ideas about artificial intelligence but even that probably won't require more than 100 Mbit/s."
Nevertheless, keen to hedge its bets, Swisscom is designing the network in a way that would allow it to extend fiber all the way to customer premises in future, if such a move proved necessary.
The operator is also making the G.fast network backwards compatible with older fixed-line technologies, including VDSL and vectoring, to ensure customers have a fallback broadband option in the event of outages.
As Herren points out, because G.fast relies on higher frequencies, it can be more subject to interference than other technologies.
Currently, around 22% of Switzerland's population can access gigabit-speed connections, according to the Swisscom executive, thanks to investments in FTTH and fiber-to-the-premises technology.
Swisscom is also piloting a technology called DSL-LTE bonding -- which boosts connection speeds by combining the bandwidth capabilities of fixed-line and mobile technologies -- and plans to launch a commercial service early next year.
A number of other Tier 1 players have been looking at G.fast as an option for high-speed broadband connectivity, although their deployment scenarios differ markedly, as news from this event clearly shows. (See Australia's NBN Hits 8 Gbit/s on XG.FAST.)
— Iain Morris, , News Editor, Light Reading