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Bell Labs, the research arm of telecoms technology provider Alcatel-Lucent, has set a new broadband speed record of 10 Gbps using traditional copper telephone lines and a prototype technology that demonstrates how existing copper access networks can be used to deliver 1Gbps symmetrical ultra-broadband access services.
Achieving 1 Gbps ‘symmetrical’ services – where bandwidth can be split to provide simultaneous upload and download speeds of 1 Gbps – is a major breakthrough for copper broadband. It will enable operators to provide Internet connection speeds that are indistinguishable from fibre-to-the-home services, a major business benefit in locations where it is not physically, economically or aesthetically viable to lay new fibre cables all the way into residences. Instead, fibre can be brought to the kerbside, wall or basement of a building and the existing copper network used for the final few meters.
The Bell Labs tests used a prototype technology called XG-FAST. This is an extension of G.fast technology, a new broadband standard currently being finalized by the ITU. When it becomes commercially available in 2015, G.fast will use a frequency range for data transmission of 106 MHz, giving broadband speeds up to 500 Mbps over a distance of 100 meters. In contrast, XG-FAST uses an increased frequency range up to 500 MHz to achieve higher speeds but over shorter distances. Bell Labs achieved 1 Gbps symmetrical over 70 meters on a single copper pair. 10 Gbps was achieved over a distance of 30 meters by using two pairs of lines (a technique known as ‘bonding). Both tests used standard copper cable provided by a European operator.
Marcus Weldon, President of Bell Labs, said the unit’s constant aim was to push the limits of what is possible to ‘invent the future’, with breakthroughs that are 10 times better than are possible today. “Our demonstration of 10 Gbps over copper is a prime example: by pushing broadband technology to its limits, operators can determine how they could deliver gigabit services over their existing networks, ensuring the availability of ultra-broadband access as widely and as economically as possible,” he advised.
Commenting on the achievement, Federico Guillén, President of Alcatel-Lucent’s Fixed Networks business, described the speed record as “an amazing achievement”, adding that crucially in addition Bell Labs had identified a new benchmark for ‘real-world’ applications for ultra-broadband fixed access. “XG-FAST can help operators accelerate FTTH deployments, taking fibre very close to customers without the major expense and delays associated with entering every home. By making 1 gigabit symmetrical services over copper a real possibility, Bell Labs is offering the telecommunications industry a new way to ensure no customer is left behind when it comes to ultra-broadband access,” he declared.