NBN seeks to push copper speed limits in XG-FAST trial with Nokia

Eyes super-fast technology for FTTdp

NBN is planning to trial an emerging copper-based broadband standard that could potentially deliver even faster speeds than the still nascent G.Fast technology. XG-FAST builds on the G.Fast standard, increasing the amount of spectrum used to push data to and from an end user’s premises.

NBN is Nokia’s third customer globally to trial the technology, which involves increasing the spectrum used to as much as 500MHz, compared to the 106MHz used by G.Fast.

Nokia became NBN’s fixed network partner after its acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent.

NBN has already conducted trials of G.Fast, with the company previously saying it could potentially bring services based on G.Fast to market in 2017. Over a 20-metre stretch of copper at NBN's National Test Facility the company reached speeds up to 970Mbps using G.fast.

Previous trials of XG-FAST have involved short lengths of copper. In a test staged by Nokia and Deutsche Telekom over a 50 metre copper cable in Germany speeds of up to 8 gigabits per second were reached, while a BT lab trial achieved aggregate speeds of 5.6Gbps.

XG-FAST is still years away from being ready for commercial deployment. However, NBN’s chief technology officer, Dennis Steiger, said that the technology had a potential role in the company’s fibre to the distribution point (FTTdp) rollout.

FTTdp involves pushing fibre closer to an end user’s premises compared to fibre to the node (FTTN) and can be used for either multi-dwelling units (such as apartment blocks) or single-dwelling units.

NBN is currently conducting FTTdp trials in Sydney and Melbourne and has previously indicated it expects to initially roll out the technology to some 500,000 premises. NBN does expect to launch wholesale services based on the technology until 2018.

The bulk of connections to the National Broadband Network are expected to still use FTTN (and fibre to the basement, FTTB, which NBN lumps together with FTTN in its public figures).

NBN’s latest corporate plan, launched last week, revealed that it has slashed the number of premises it expects to connect using hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC), with the cost per premise of HFC being substantially higher than FTTN.

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