ITU approves G.fast standard

ITU members have confirmed final approval of G.fast, the new ITU broadband standard designed to deliver access speeds of up to 1Gbit/s over existing telephone wires. The ITU suggests the standard answers service providers’ need for a complement to fibre to the home (FTTH) technologies in scenarios where G.fast proves the more cost-efficient strategy.

According to the ITU, G.fast, within the fibre to the distribution point (FTTdp) architecture, combines the best aspects of fibre and DSL. Within 400 metres of a distribution point, G.fast provides fibre-like speeds matched with the customer self-installation of DSL, resulting in cost-savings for service providers and improved customer experience.

According to Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, Secretary-General, ITU, the time from G.fast’s approval to its implementation looks set to be the fastest of any access technology in recent memory. “A range of vendors has begun shipping G.fast silicon and equipment, and service providers’ lab and field trials are well underway,” he advised.

The approval of the physical-layer protocol aspects of G.fast – defined by Recommendation ITU-T G.9701 “Fast Access to Subscriber Terminals (FAST) – Physical layer specification – follows the approval in April 2014 of ITU-T G.9700, a companion text specifying methods to ensure that G.fast equipment will not interfere with broadcast services such as FM radio.

G.fast will increase the feasibility of implementing bandwidth-intensive services such as Ultra-HD ‘4K’ or ‘8K’ streaming and next-generation IPTV, advanced cloud-based storage, and communication via HD video. The standard will comfortably serve the broadband access needs of small-to-medium enterprises, with other envisioned applications including backhaul for small wireless cell sites and WiFi hotspots.

G.fast’s ‘zero touch’ operations, administration and management will increase the speed of new-service rollouts. This remote management of user connections will simplify migrations to G.fast, and the standard’s coexistence with VDSL2 offers service providers the agility required to switch customers between G.fast and VDSL2 as business operations demand.

The development of G.fast has been coordinated with the Broadband Forum’s FTTdp system architecture project. ITU and the Broadband Forum have been working in collaboration to ensure that G.fast solutions can be quickly placed into FTTdp deployments.

“The Broadband Forum is working closely with the ITU to ensure compliance with the G.fast standard and certify chipsets and equipment,” said Robin Mersh, CEO of the Broadband Forum. “We have already set our first plugfest for January 2015,” he advised, suggesting that consumers should have confidence that the leading broadband service providers globally are working hard to deliver 1Gbps, ultra broadband access.

Trade body the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) also applauded the new ITU-T standard. “The hot new product this holiday season and beyond is 4K UHD TVs,” said Gary Shapiro, CEA President and CEO. “But consumers need confidence that 4K UHD TV online content distribution services, which are often limited by bandwidth rates, are feasible. G.fast offers a promising way to overcome this challenge.”

The Broadband Forum has begun developing a test suite and certification programme for G.fast systems. The test suite will provide for interoperability, functional and performance testing. A beta-trial of the certification programme is planned for mid-2015, and certified G.fast implementations are expected to appear on the market before the end of 2015.

ITU-T Study Group 15 has initiated work on an extended set of features for G.fast, targeting performance enhancements which will include additions to its range of low-power states. These features are likely to be available for incorporation into service providers’ G.fast deployments as early as July 3rd 2015.

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