G.fast May See More North American Use in Buildings than outside of Them

European service providers such as BT and Swisscom have publically touted G.fast as a means of keeping their copper outside plant useful for broadband data rates into the hundreds of megabits. However, sources indicate that their North American counterparts increasingly see the technology's first role as a way to provide high-speed broadband over in-building copper as part of a fiber-to-the-building (FTTB) deployment. This growing consensus calls into question how soon – if at all – North American cable operators will see G.fast deployed to single-family homes in response to their upcoming DOCSIS 3.1 roll outs.

G.fast has been touted as the technology that will enable telcos to support gigabit services over already installed copper access networks. Several vendors have reported demonstrations of such speeds, although at reaches of less than 100 m and, with few exceptions, in lab environments. Work to bond multiple G.fast channels together to help achieve the gigabit goal is ongoing. Because G.fast bandwidth quotations are aggregates of the combined upstream and downstream rates, a deployment will have to support greater than 1-Gbps to maintain a gigabit downstream rate.

Perhaps for this reason, it doesn't appear early adopters foresee using G.fast to support gigabit speeds anytime soon. BT executives said in February they hoped to use the technology to support speeds of "a few hundred megabits" initially, and 500 Mbps within a decade. Swisscom similarly foresees G.fast as a means to support 500-Mbps services over copper lengths of around 200 m.

Swisscom also says it will use G.fast in FTTB, as does Telekom Austria. In North America, FTTB will see the lion's share of G.fast deployments, many believe.

"In more fiber-centric geographies like North America, G.fast will be part of a FTTB deployment model, and yes, MDU/MTU would be the key target," according to Kurt Raaflaub, who is responsible for strategic solutions marketing at ADTRAN. ADTRAN announced G.fast field trials last October, and concurrently issued a whitepaper that discusses G.fast in an FTTB context.

"You are correct about FTTB being the primary initial application for G.fast," wrote Teresa Mastrangelo, principal analyst at market research firm Broadbandtrends, in response to a BTR email query. "It solves a lot of issues – such as not having to run fiber up the risers or inside the unit. Many times the building owners will not allow operators to run new cabling. It also removes the need for in-unit installation – since there will be no special fiber jack. Additionally, since the distribution node can be placed in the basement, closet, etc. – it typically has power available – there's no need for remote powering."

Calix squarely has positioned its G.fast offering as an FTTB option. "To us, G.fast is primarily about fiber," emailed Geoff Burke, the company's senior director, corporate marketing. "It's a necessary complement to it for MDUs around the world and a good fit for us."

G.fast undoubtedly will find application within the outside plant of some North American telcos; AT&T, despite its recent spate of FTTH deployments, still serves most of its U-verse customers via copper and therefore likely is giving G.fast a close look. But as cable operators roll out DOCSIS 3.1 and offer downstream rates greater than 500 Mbps, it appears increasingly likely most competitors will turn to FTTH in response.

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