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From next year, homes in Europe will have faster-than-ever access to the internet via the old copper network, with speeds ranging from hundreds of megabits per second to 1 gigabit. This is possible thanks to the new technology G.fast, which TNO initiated with a consortium of operators, manufacturers and research centres. At the end of last year, the International Telecommunication Union of the U.N. recognised G.fast as the worldwide standard.
During the Ultra-Fast Broadband Seminar this week in The Hague, parties including British Telecom and Swisscom announced that plans were well under way for rolling out the technology. Orange (France), Fastweb (Italy), Telekom Malaysia and AT&T (U.S.) have also introduced G.fast. Many other operators within and outside Europe are now developing plans to provide their customers with the new technology – via the traditional copper lines that were originally intended for telephony. The seminar brings together DSL experts from all over the world – including no less than twenty telecom operators.
‘Naturally, the ultimate aim is fibre at every address, but that isn’t feasible in either practical or economic terms’, explains senior scientist Rob van den Brink, the originator of G.fast. ‘And cable companies are already offering high speeds, but it occurred to us at TNO that we could use DSL techniques to make copper much faster. Tests in our lab have shown that we can achieve very high speeds with G.fast over distances of 350 metres between street cabinets with fibre and home connections. In concrete terms, this means that you can offer speeds of hundreds of megabits per second via copper to 95% of homes in the centre of Amsterdam 95%, something that was only thought possible for fibre. G.fast is an ultimate solution that enables telecom operators to substantially upgrade their network at minimum cost.’
Now that the ITU has declared the technology a world standard, operators, network builders, equipment suppliers and other involved parties are working as fast as they can to make G.fast accessible to consumers. They are doing this with the help of knowledge developed by TNO. Operators, for example, are using models that TNO developed to calculate how best to adapt their network for the new technology.
TNO has also formulated use cases that enable operators to determine whether - and if so, how - G.fast can be rolled out from existing street cabinets or whether they need to install new ones, and what this means in terms of investment and returns. The latest tests carried out by TNO clearly show that G.fast performs much better than originally predicted.
‘Our feasibility studies help operators to decide which parts of their network are best suited to G.fast or VDSL upgrading’, says Rob van den Brink.
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