NBN to launch gigabit copper tech for FTTB, FTTC

Commercial end users with FTTB, FTTC connections likely to be first to benefit; no G.fast for FTTN yet

NBN will launch G.fast services in 2018, potentially offering speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second (Gbps) over a range of connections that rely on copper wiring for the connection to an end user’s premises.

The company conducted field trials of the technology in 2015, originally with an eye to launching it in 2017. NBN revealed that it achieved speeds up of to 600 megabits per second over a 100-metre stretch of 20-year-old copper; in lab tests, the company has reached up to 970Mbps over 20 metres.

The G.fast standard received final approval from the  International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in December 2014. The ITU describes G.fast as offering “fibre-like speeds” within 400 metres of a distribution point.

The standard has target speeds of 500-1000 Mbps over copper lengths of less than 100 metres, 500Mbps at 100 metres, 200Mbps at 200 metres, and 150Mbps at 250 metres.

(NBN has also conducted lab tests of the still-nascent XG.Fast standard, achieving speeds of up to 8Gbps over 30 metres of copper.)

NBN said it will launch G.fast for premises connected via fibre to the building (FTTB) and fibre to the curb (FTTC). Currently NBN’s FTTB and FTTC offerings top out at a maximum theoretical speed of 100Mbps.

It is understood that the company will initially target areas where there is a high demand for ultra-fast services — which is likely to mean that commercial end users will be the first to benefit from G.fast. NBN would then be able to assess any expansion of the technology to other premises with FTTC and FTTB connections.

NBN is understood to not have any immediate plans to enable G.fast for fibre to the node services due the lengths of copper involved with many FTTN connections.

The rollout of G.fast will leave FTTN as the only National Broadband Network access technology not able to achieve gigabit speeds, with fibre to the premises (FTTP) connections already capable of achieving gigabit downloads and NBN rolling out the DOCSIS 3.1 cable broadband standard for hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC).

“Our FTTP and HFC end-users already have the technology to support gigabit services and adding G.fast over FTTC provides the upgrade path for our FTTN end users to ultimately receive gigabit speeds too,” said NBN’s chief strategy officer JB Rousselot.

NBN said the technology to roll out G.fast will be supplied by its existing fixed-line broadband suppliers Nokia, ADTRAN and Netcomm Wireless.

“A 2018 launch for G.fast puts NBN on a firm pathway to gigabit services in its copper network domain,” said Els Baert, Nokia fixed networks strategy engagement.

“This launch demonstrates NBN’s opportunity to utilise new and emerging access network technologies and existing assets to support service upgrades and its future evolution.”

G.fast will require end users to install new modems and an upgrade to  DSLAMs (for FTTB) or distribution point units (for FTTC).

The NBN earlier this week revealed it had activated its first FTTC connection as part of a field trial. The company said it achieved speeds of 109Mbps downstream and 44Mbps upstream over the 70-metre copper line connecting the Coburg household.

Today’s announcement follows an unflattering ABC Four Corners report dedicated to the new network.

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