While operators deploy fiber deeper into their networks, new innovations in G.fast are enabling more competitive broadband speeds on existing copper networks. Thus, in certain geographical areas with robust copper networks, operators are increasingly searching for ways to allay the cost of going fiber all the way to the home. This is because fiber, although obvious as a future-proof solution, sometimes is simply not economical to deploy in households.
A recent Ovum report jointly commissioned by NBN and BT has predicted that new ultrafast copper technology G.fast will be serving nearly 30 million subscriber homes and businesses around the world by 2021, representing 3 percent of the global fixed-broadband market. This is just four years after the first commercial G.fast services are due to launch in 2017.
As an emerging technology, the growth in new G.fast subscribers is expected to accelerate in each year, rising from 330,000 in 2017 to nearly 11.5 million in 2021.
Ovum is forecasting particularly strong take-up of G.fast in Europe, with operators including BT, Swisscom, Deutsche Telekom, Telekom Austria, and Proximus (Belgium) – all planning to deploy G.fast technology to deliver affordable ultrafast connectivity quickly and cost-effectively.
Contrary as it might sound, G.fast will actually accelerate fiber deployments. Fiberizing an entire nation takes years or decades – workers have to enter every building to install new fiber cabling,
which may also mean digging up every street and every front yard. However, most end-users are unwilling to wait that long, and policy-makers have set aggressive broadband goals. Operators need to move fast, faster.
G.fast provides an effective solution in places where installing new fiber infrastructure is uneconomical or infeasible. For example, older buildings are unlikely to come equipped with cable ducts, and some home owners may refuse drilling or new cabling. Even in the best case scenario, the lengthy process of getting permission from the building owner, making an appointment, and entering the building is cumbersome, time-consuming, and costly.
G.fast avoids these complications by leveraging the existing, in-building telephone lines. Operators now have more options when seeking to deliver fiber speeds to end-users. Combining FTTH and FTTx deployment models is generally the most cost-efficient and fastest way to deliver ultra-broadband to end-users – effectively accelerating fiber roll-outs.
Bringing fiber to the most economical point. Where ubiquitous ultra-broadband is concerned, there is no single best solution, although FTTH is often identified as the most future-proof solution and end-goal for many operators. However, FTTx deployments often play a critical role in any operator's strategy, due to its lower cost and faster roll-out compared with FTTH.
In FTTx deployments, fiber is terminated close to the end-user (the "x" can be a node, curb, building, pole, manhole, wall, front door, etc.). From this distribution point, a fiber-fed G.fast (or VDSL2 vectoring) system delivers ultra-high speeds over the telephone lines. The trade-off is between speed and distance – G.fast uses a much wider frequency spectrum than VDSL2 to achieve higher speeds, but the maximum distance is reduced due to higher attenuation, down to typically 250 m or less.
Obviously, shorter distances also mean higher cost, since fiber must be brought closer to the end-user. And since fewer end-users will be in the range of the distribution point, a typical G.fast system will serve fewer end-users. An FTTN (fiber-to-the-node or cabinet) deployment with VDSL2 vectoring can deliver 100 Mbps downstream over 400 m, serving hundreds of subscribers. A G.fast deployment can deliver 500 Mbps+ aggregate over 100 m,
but typically serving tens of subscribers in a building (FTTB), for example. As a result, FTTB/G.fast works out about twice as expensive per end-user as FTTN/VDSL2 vectoring – but still about 30 percent cheaper than FTTH.
It is clear that operators need to choose between trade-offs between deployment speed, bandwidth, and cost. It might sound complicated and daunting at first, but this toolkit of deployment models (from FTTN to FTTH, and everything
in between) allows operators to select
the right tool for the job. For every city, street, or building, operators examine various factors (including the expected customer take-up rate; the availability of ducts; the type of soil, and whether it is easy or hard to dig; time needed to get permission; etc.) and select an appropriate deployment model that will connect these end-users in the fastest and most cost-effective way.
G.fast will play a critical role in many operators' ultra-broadband network strategies, delivering more bandwidth to more people, sooner. For the operator, G.fast will result in a faster time-to-market and improved returns on investment. For policy-makers, it means that broadband targets can be met more easily, helping bridge the digital divide in terms of higher access speeds. For end-users, G.fast can help them enjoy new services or socio-economic benefits, sooner. In the end, G.fast will change the lives of millions of people around the world for the better – and that is what counts," explains Stefaan van Hastel, Marketing Director for Fixed Networks, Alcatel-Lucent.
Indian View Point
A recent study paper from TEC presents the Indian viewpoint.
FTTH is still viewed as the most future-proof access technology for high bandwidth services, though not without significant challenges presented by the final last mile; CapEx-heavy household disruptions such as the running of fiber optic cables underground to the household, which can require the digging up of the lawn or garden, as well as physical changes to the household itself, can make full FTTH deployment unappealing for service providers and consumers. The cost of consumer premises equipment can also present a financial burden, with the average sales price (ASP) of an ONT and router combination significantly higher than that of a DSL gateway.
G.fast can provide an alternative to these last-mile difficulties while still providing bandwidth speeds up to a gigabit. However, the promise of G.fast gigabit service is highly dependent upon the distance of the copper loop line from the household. The technology requires the distribution point, where the fiber optic cable is terminated, to be very close to the household for efficiency.
G.fast technology reaches signal degradation at about 100 m of vectored copper VDSL lines. For very short loops
of less than 100 m, it is possible to use G.fast for gigabit services. Between 100 and 200 m, bandwidth speeds of 300–500 Mbps are possible. After 200 m, signal degradation is so rapid that G.fast becomes redundant.
G.fast is a very efficient solution for multi-dwelling units in densely populated urban areas, as fiber can be run to the building, or even to the floor, with the end result being very short copper loop lines over which G.fast performs at its best.
Additionally, FTTS is a strategy in
which the fiber optic cable is run to
a cabinet in the street close to the household. If the ISP network topology is designed such that cabinets are within 200 m of the households they serve, then broadband speeds up to 500 Mbps can be served to those households over G.fast technology.
Country by Country G.fast
Britain. It is 10 million by 2020 with most of the country by 2025.
AT&T. Originally set to deploy by Q1 2017.
Chunghwa Taiwan. Abandoned promised fiber home build for G.fast in early 2016. With Alcatel, they declared G.fast deployment underway.
S.K Korea. CEO in June 2016 said they would upgrade to 500 megabit G.fast in June of 2016.
Japan. Millions of lines of fiber are fiber-to-the-basement plus VDSL to the apartments. Qualcomm/Ikanos had a likely lock on this. Centillium, now part of Ikanos, worked with the Japanese from the beginning and owns the market. They have added features to G.fast to work well with Japan's 30a VDSL. Now, it is up for grabs with Sckipio also supporting the 30a.
Austria, Switzerland, Belgium (Proximus). All are doing multi-technologies, depending on terrain, population density, and facilities in place. There are fiber homes, basements, distribution points, and nodes in different areas. All have active trials going well.
Telus, Western Canada. CTO Ibrahim Gideon is a proud early adopter and will probably be one of the first here.
NetCologne, Germany. Moving rapidly to >300,000 municipally owned with expansion plans nearby.
France Telecom/Orange. Lots of fiber but they also intend to use G.fast from the basement in many buildings.
Orange Poland. Has begun deploying G.fast but says it will only be used where fiber home is impractical.
Panama. Cable company Liberty Global owns a phone company and they have announced G.fast.
Windstream. A mostly Southern US regional with ~1 million DSL customers. CEO Tony Thomas tells investors G.fast is coming in 2017. They will have a hard time financing much of a build, however; they are carrying USD 10 billion of debt with <USD 1 billion of equity.
Century. After absorbing Qwest, passes
20 million homes.Confirmed deployment.
Israel. Bezeq is firm in going for G.fast.
Japan. Nokia announced Enecom would begin G.fast in June 2016.
Norway. Homenet/Broadnet intends to use G.fast for local connections from 40,000 km of fiber.Highly Likely
Germany.DT CTO Bruno Jacobfeuerborn told a reporter they would begin G.fast in 2015. He misspoke, as his staff told him when he returned to the office. Then the money side of the house spoke up. DT earnings have not covered their dividends the last few years and they have a very limited budget. Meanwhile, the German government has allocated USD 4 billion for broadband, most of which will be subsidies to the companies for profitable upgrades. Looking at that money, DT has allowed their broadband upgrades to fall behind plan about two years.
Australia. NBN knows G.fast is the right choice in some districts. They have done costing and advanced trials. Again, politics intrude. NBN is yet again over the budget and is looking up to the government to make up the shortfall. They are using G.fast as a bargaining chip.
US Regionals (Frontier, etc.).With nearly ubiquitous cable competition, most of it going to a gigabit, these folks have to do something. Plenty of apartment buildings in all territories.
Elisa Finland. A mobile carrier with 1.4 million customers. They have reached 880 Mbps in G.fast trials and have told investors they intend to deploy. The regulator has not set the rules for using the frequencies, however.
Telefonica Italy. Reported likely in 2017 by LR. Telecom Italia is reported to have plans.