by George Nott

NBN claims “lightning speeds” over copper with XG.FAST

Oct 18, 2016

The NBN has deemed its trials of XG.FAST a success after achieving speeds of 8Gbps over copper lines in the lab.

The emerging technology could be deployed in a number of settings, the NBN said, including multi-dwelling units (MDUs) in a fibre-to-the-building (FTTB) scenario or via a distribution point unit (DPU) in a fibre-to-the curb (FTTC) based network.

The lab trials, conducted with vendor Nokia, achieved speeds of 8Gbps over 30 metres of twisted-pair copper cable – the kind typically used between street and premise – and 5Gbps over 70 metres.

Last month, the NBN announced its plan to deploy FTTC services to 700,000 premises, adding that the customers would be an “ideal platform for potentially deploying future XG.Fast services”.

Nokia said it has conducted trials – the previous generation of the technology – with more than 38 operators globally. It ran XG.FAST lab trials with Deutsche Telekom in February and BT in the UK last year.

In Germany, testing demonstrated aggregate data transmission rates exceeding 8Gbs over a 50 metre line length. A trial by BT in the UK delivered aggregate speeds of 5.6Gbs over 35 metres, Nokia said.

The NBN said XG.FAST had the potential to deliver speeds on a par with currently available fibre-to-the-premises speeds.

“Although XG.FAST is still in its very early stages of development the lab trials we have conducted demonstrates the huge potential that the technology offers,” said Dennis Steiger, CTO of NBN Australia.

“XG.FAST gives us the potential ability to deliver multi-gigabit speeds over copper lines – virtually on a par with what is currently available on fibre-to-the-premises – but at a lower cost and time to deploy.

“While our core goal remains to connect 8 million premises to the NBN by 2020 we are keeping a close eye on new technologies like XG.FAST to ensure we can meet the future bandwidth demands of Australian broadband users,” he said.

Inevitable upgrade

A statement from the NBN heralded the “lightning speeds” but added a disclaimer that factors outside the NBN’s control affected the end user’s “experience including the speeds actually achieved”.

Following BT’s UK trials in October last year Mike Galvin, managing director of next-generation access at BT’s Technology Service and Operations division cited Australia in response to criticism that technology like XG.FAST simply delayed an inevitable requirement to upgrade to all-fibre networks.

“… is the answer if the UK is to have widespread and affordable ultrafast broadband sooner rather than later,” he explained.

“Those who argue otherwise aren’t being realistic and should look at Australia where the authorities have changed tack on their fibre deployment and followed our example.”

Speaking on commencement of the XG.FAST trials last month, web user group Internet Australia said any new technology must be guaranteed to deliver upload and download speed and reliability comparable with fibre now and in the future.

“Otherwise, we will still be building an inferior broadband service that won’t be fit-for-purpose in the long run,” said Internet Australia CEO Laurie Patton. “Our concern with the (multi-technology mix) MTM model has always been that it will not last the distance and will have to be replaced at great cost by a future government.”