Envious of fiber broadband? Help is on the way for copper users

Speeds at up to 1Gbps will eventually be possible over copper lines

A technology that delivers broadband speeds over copper lines at a speed comparable to fiber is gaining momentum.

Telekom Austria said this week it had connected the first subscriber in the world to its domestic network with G.fast, which offers data rates of up to several 100 Mbit/s via existing copper lines. That will meet the needs of even the most demanding households over the next 10 to 20 years, according to the operator.

G.fast increases the bandwidth by using more spectrum. That places extra demands on equipment to be very good at handling interference, a far from trivial requirement.

G.fast only works over short distances, up to 250 meters, so it is only used to connect subscribers to the nearest distribution point; the rest of the network must be fiber. That means it can't replace all slow DSL lines, but it will be used where it's difficult or too expensive for operators to install fiber all the way to the subscriber's modem.

Telekom Austria has multi-story buildings in cities in mind for large-scale commercial installations in 2016. In this case fiber is deployed all the way to the basement of a building, and existing copper lines are used for the final connection to the apartments.

Fiber to the home remains the operator's long term vision, but it sees G.fast as a good interim technology.

A big step toward commercial availability was taken last week when Sckipio introduced the first G.fast chipsets. It sees a shorter horizon than Telekom Austria: it expects the first modems will be available in the first half of next year and services will be available in the second half of 2015.

Telekom Austria isn't the only operator that has high hopes for G.fast. Recently, British operator BT said download speeds of around 700Mbps and upload speeds at 200Mbps over a distance of 66 meters were achieved during a field trial.

Over the coming months BT will use a new laboratory to study the full technical capabilities of G.fast hardware from the likes Adtran, Alcatel-Lucent (which is also working with Telekom Austria) and Huawei.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

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