A new technology called G.fast aims to teach that old dog, digital subscriber line, a new trick — how to deliver speeds of 1 Gigabit per second.
Interest in G.fast reached frothy levels last week as chipmakers and network-equipment suppliers trotted out their latest wares based on the technology. While analysts agreed that G.fast has the potential to pump more life into DSL, they also questioned whether it will be a massive hit.
The potential for G.fast, which brings a speedy new twist to the twisted pair, is sizable. Before they have to take the plunge with pricey fiber-to-the-home upgrades, telcos would certainly be eager to get more speed out of their DSL lines and deliver services that could more closely compete with cable’s widelydeployed DOCSIS platform.
But G.fast’s 1-Gig claims are somewhat misleading, as that’s the aggregate data capacity (upstream plus downstream) it can achieve. Another key caveat: G.fast, which requires a noise-cancellation technology called “vectoring,” requires very short loop lengths — the distance the wires extend from the telco’s central office to the premises.
Suppliers and chipmakers are bullish on the prospects of G.fast, even before the standard is fully baked. Most of the heavy lifting on the standards front was complete by last December, giving chipmakers enough confidence to move ahead without having to worry about changes that can’t be implemented in software.
“We still see a ton of value that we can unlock in the copper plant with advanced DSL technologies,” Jim McKeon, Broadcom’s senior director of product marketing, Broadband Carrier Access, said.
Broadcom is a big enough believer that it has developed and introduced G.fast-based silicon for home-side gateway and network-facing equipment. McKeon said he expects Broadcom’s products to be ready for full production by the first half of 2015.
Broadcom’s approach is backwardcompatible with VDSL, he said, allowing telcos to perform incremental upgrades. “Introducing G.fast will be a very straightforward exercise,” he said, predicting that significant field trials will be underway next year alongside some small deployments before rollouts kick into high gear in 2016. “There’s a surprising amount of urgency coming out of the telcos for G.fast.”
And that interest has been global, he said, noting that about 400 million lines of DSL are installed worldwide. “We’re still seeing a lot of potential in wireline broadband,” McKeon said. “We wouldn’t be investing in it if we didn’t see that.”
Big Potential, Big Questions
Analysts who track the broadband access market and are keeping tabs on G.fast aren’t ready to call the emerging technology a home run. But they understand the value proposition.
“G.fast is going to have legs, but the question is, how long are those legs going to be?” Teresa Mastrangelo, founder of marketing analysis and consulting firm Broadbandtrends, said. “The telcos are excited about the potential for G.fast and the speed that it can provide.”
Jeff Heynen, principal analyst, broadband access and pay TV, at Infonetics, said he expects to issue his first G.fast forecast early next year, but said assessing the total addressable market for the technology won’t be a straightforward exercise.
While telcos that are doing vectoring now — such as KPN of the Netherlands, Swisscom, BT , Belgacom, Deutsche Telekom, A1 Telekom Austria, and even AT&T and CenturyLink Communications — are among the candidates for G.fast, Heynen said, “I don’t think it’s a one-to-one relationship.”
“Will G.fast be massively adopted?” he added. “I’m still not sure.”
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