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G.fast, optical tech unveiled by Alcatel-Lucent

Fibre

At the Broadband World Forum in Amsterdam this week Alcatel-Lucent announced an expanded product offering for broadband access network, including new G.fast and optical networking solutions.

The infrastructure vendor cited trials with Telekom Austria’s subsidiary A1 and Vodafone as both technologies near completion and commercial readiness for the start of 2015.

The new G.fast service is intended to bring fibre-like speeds nearer to the customer premises by utilising existing copper infrastructure. Fibre infrastructure goes as far as the distribution point, from where G.fast-enabled copper infrastructure uses vectoring technology to eliminate cross-talk interference, which occurs when two or more copper lines are in close proximity. It is claimed that G.fast has the potential to fulfil up to 1Gbps within 250 metres of the distribution point.

The founder of analyst firm Broadbandtrends, Teresa Mastrangelo, believes that G.fast is a natural evolution of service enablement, stemming from increasing customer expectations and regulatory pressure broadband providers find themselves under.

“In order to meet their customers’ demands and regulatory objectives for high-speed broadband services, operators are increasingly turning to fiber-to-the-distribution point technologies,” she said. “With its ability to provide fiber-like speeds without the time, cost and disruption associated with full fiber-to-the-home deployments, G.fast will have a significant role to play in operators’ ultra-broadband strategies.”

Alcatel-Lucent has collaborated with an ecosystem of vendors including Sagemcom to facilitate the development of the G.fast technology. Geert Heyninck, GM of Alcatel-Lucent Fixed Networks Broadband Access Team, believes that interoperable collaboration is the key to driving a successful user experience on new technologies. “Alcatel-Lucent is at the forefront of this new technology and supporting interoperability with ecosystem players like Sagemcom is important to ensure an end to end G.fast solution is available to operators as quickly and widely as possible,” he said.

The company also announced its commercial TWDM-PON, due for launch in early 2015. It’s a bit of a mouthful, but it stands for Time and Wavelength Division Multiplexed Passive Optical Networks, and the technology essentially allows for operators to deliver multiple different services over each wavelength. Each fibre can be flexibly configured to enable customer service delivery ranging from a few Mbps up to 10 Gbps.

Alcatel-Lucent claims that TWDM-PON can coexist with current PON technology, and therefore provides a value proposition for operators to cost-effectively manage and evolve their existing fibre access networks. The claim seems to be substantiated by recent comments from Ovum Research’s Principal Analyst for Intelligent Networks, Julie Kunstler.

“TWDM-PON promises a far greater return on investment than previous generations of fiber access technologies,” she said. “Its increased capacity and flexibility support more than just higher bandwidth services; it provides the platform for innovative operational and business models, making TWDM-PON extremely interesting to wireline and wireless operators.”

Vodafone has been the operator partner during trials, and the company’s Group Technology Architecture Director Matt Beal sees the ever increasing demand from business customers as the primary motivating factor for investigating TWDM-PON, and suggest that its first rollout will be in Spain.

“Individuals and businesses are showing an ever increasing demand for access to high speed data and services across mobile and fixed networks,” he said. “TWDM-PON is ground-breaking technology that will give us greater control over network capacity and increased flexibility when provisioning new services… we look forward to evaluating it on our network in Spain.”

Creating new opportunities to maximise existing infrastructure is certainly high on the priority list of operators but the clamour for fibre direct to the home/premises is being tempered with realistic expectations and queries over the return on investment on what would be a costly overhaul of the access network. Technologies like G.fast and TWDM-PON, being developed not only by Alcatel-Lucent but also a number of other access providers, could be seen as a compelling means by which operators can optimise existing infrastructures. Others may say it’s simply postponing the inevitable.


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