NBN is preparing to launch trials of G.fast technology, which could potentially deliver a significant speed boost to National Broadband Network connections that rely on existing copper phonelines.
Both fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) and fibre-to-the-basement (FTTB) rely on copper for the connection to an end user's premises. Commercial FTTN services will launch on the NBN on 21 September.
Although only a minority of premises that rely on copper are ever likely to be capable of gigabit speeds using G.fast, NBN is still eyeing the technology's ability to deliver faster connections across the National Broadband Network than other DSL technologies.
"This technology today, we're looking at it ... in terms of a 50 megabits per second capability for most of that network, but it has the potential ... to get up to 500[Mbps], even a gigabit per second speed on very short copper distances," NBN's CEO, Bill Morrow, said today during a presentation at the ASTRA conference.
NBN is closemouthed on the details of the G.fast trials but is preparing to make an announcement within months.
The G.fast standard was approved in December last year.
Within 400 metres of a distribution point, G.fast can deliver "fibre-like speeds" according to the International Telecommunication Union.
The standard targets speeds of 500Mbps to 1 gigabit for FTTB deployments at less than 100 metres, 500Mbps at 100m, 200Mbps at 200m, and 150Mbps at 250m.
The ITU began work on the standard in January 2011.
Communications minister Malcolm Turnbull has previously talked up the potential of G.fast.
"Rather than big bang projects there is a renewed interest in incremental upgrades where legacy infrastructure can be leveraged," the minister said in a speech at the CommsDay Summit in April.
"On this front the most exciting emerging technology is G.fast, which as most of you know, uses a wider chunk of copper’s available spectrum... meaning users can achieve much higher bitrates, albeit with greater attenuation.
"With the G.fast standard now settled and approved by the ITU, there is growing interest around the world."
In BT's tests it achieved download speeds of around 800Mbps - but over a 19m length of
copper - and upload speeds of more than 200Mbps. (NBN is still not certain about the condition of elements of Telstra's copper network.)
Morrow today said that, leaving aside G.fast, between fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) and hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC), which NBN plans to upgrade to support the DOCSIS 3.1 standard, over half of Australians will potentially have access to speeds of up to a gigabit.
NBN is planning to deploy FTTP to 20 per cent of premises covered by the network and HFC will be used to connect 34 per cent of premises.
FTTN and FTTB will connect 38 per cent of premises (with the remainder of the country covered by fixed wireless and satellite).