BARCELONA -- Mobile World Congress 2015 -- Deutsche Telekom CEO Timotheus Höttges has told Light Reading the operator's new hybrid router is "not the answer to cable" competition and will mainly be used to improve broadband connectivity in rural parts of Germany.
The router works by combining bandwidth from fixed and mobile technologies and was launched on a nationwide basis in Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT)'s domestic market during this week's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
The operator had originally positioned the router as a weapon it could use against Germany's cable operators, which have continued to erode Deutsche Telekom's broadband market share with higher-speed offerings.
During last year's MWC, Deutsche Telekom had suggested the router would support downlink connection speeds of up to 250 Mbit/s, but Claudia Nemat, the operator's Europe and technology head, cited a figure of 200 Mbit/s during a press conference at Deutsche Telekom's stand Monday afternoon.
Even this seems optimistic, however, as it would demand 100 Mbit/s from the fixed line plus another 100 Mbit/s from 4G technology. Deutsche Telekom's vectoring-enabled VDSL network is capable of providing 100 Mbit/s only in ideal circumstances, while 4G technology rarely delivers anything close to 100 Mbit/s in commercial settings.
Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD)-owned Kabel Deutschland GmbH , Germany's biggest cable operator, launched a 200Mbit/s service in the cities of Koblenz, Saarbrücken and Wilhemshaven in November and aims to extend this to 1.8 million households by the end of this month. (See Speed Battle Rages in Germany.)
Meanwhile, Tele Columbus AG , Germany's third-biggest cable operator, is planning to introduce a 400Mbit/s service next month, although it will initially be available to a very small number of households in Potsdam. (See Tele Columbus to Launch 400Mbit/s Service.)
G.fast grabs DT's interest
Deutsche Telekom now appears to be looking at "super-vectoring" for a speed boost. Developed by China's Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , this has the potential to support services of up to 250 Mbit/s on the downlink, according to the German operator. But it remains commercially unproven and is a proprietary technology rather than an industry standard. (See DT Expands Its Vectoring Commitments.)
Might G.fast provide the answer while Deutsche Telekom continues to resist investing in FTTH? Until now, the operator has refused to commit to this other copper-fortifying technology, which works by extending the range of frequencies over which broadband signals travel.
Intriguingly, however, G.fast is fleetingly mentioned in a press release Deutsche Telekom distributed during its MWC presentation. Although the operator has not revealed any specific G.fast plans, it is now saying that speeds over its fixed-line network will hit 500 Mbit/s for around 12% of households in Europe in "the coming years".
While clearly beyond the capability of "super-vectoring," those speeds might be feasible using G.fast. BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), the UK's fixed-line incumbent, believes it will be able to provide 500 Mbit/s to most premises over the next few years by investing in G.fast technology.
Hybrid help in rural areas
In the meantime, marketing of the hybrid router seems likely to focus on rural areas where cable operators are not active. "In rural areas we have buildout obligations and it could help people out of the digital divide," Höttges told reporters in response to questioning from Light Reading. "[Cable operators] have never invested in these areas -- they have always hit the sweet spots."
The device will be available on a range of Deutsche Telekom's "MagentaZuhause" tariffs. For €29.95 ($33.47) a month, customers will be able to receive a service that combines 16 Mbit/s of fixed-line bandwidth with 16 Mbit/s of mobile. That rises to 50 Mbit/s from each access technology for the monthly fee of €34.95 ($39.05) and the full 100 Mbit/s (giving a total of 200 Mbit/s) for €39.95 ($44.64). A TV package is to be included in the service next year.
The router will also be made available in other markets. Later this year, it is to go on sale in Montenegro -- where Deutsche Telekom has already trialed the technology -- and it will then be introduced into Hungary. The operator's relatively modest objective is to deploy around 100,000 routers outside Germany before 2016.
Deutsche Telekom is not the only operator that has been looking into hybrid. Vodafone España S.A. has been piloting a technology it calls "DSL/4G bonding." In a previous discussion with Light Reading, Huawei, which is providing equipment to both players, confirmed the Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom services work in largely the same way. Vodafone, however, has yet to announce plans for a commercial launch.
— Iain Morris, , News Editor, Light Reading