Gigabit copper – Munich 25 March 2015

Copper extension the topic of the moment in Europe

A brief from the Munich conference on gigabit copper

The first in the series of high bandwidth copper extension, Gigabit Copper, conferences this year took place in Munich late last month.  While Total Telecom got in first there is a rash of meetings around Europe in the offing.

The number of meetings and conferences around the most recent developments in extending the life of the copper in the ground is an indication of how important this is for Europe.  I’ll be chairing at another in Berlin later in the month as well just to continue to rub it in.

Dominated by G.fast, which I’ve written about before, there was also room for the continued development of VDSL.

Vectoring is core to the gains that G.fast and VDSL offer

This was one of the major issues still in flux.  On the one hand, without vectoring, there’s not the bandwidth you want.  With it you lose the ability to unbundle at the cabinet effectively.

Different markets are approaching this in different ways and there were even a couple of instances where G.fast isn’t an option due to the competition regulations in place.  This seems counter productive.  If there is something available that can solve coverage issues and offer to do it at a more affordable level than other solutions then why block it?

Some were sure that SDN would eventually offer a solution and allow ISPs to differentiate without physically unbundling but perhaps not quickly enough.  We are likely to see a tangle of solutions across Europe and in some places outcomes will be delayed and potentially not exist depending on the response of the regulators.

There is a secondary issue too.  VDSL2 plus vectoring is the favoured path of Deutsche Telekom (who sent no representatives surprisingly) and to allow them to deploy and use as they wish they want to eat into the frequencies currently expected to serve G.fast.  The overlap isn’t massive (they are talking of moving VDSL up from 17MHz to 30Mhz) but the impact on costs and migrations could be an undesirable outcome as well as introducing more variation in the EU28 supposedly heading for a single telecoms market.

itu migration

G.fast and VDSL

 

As indicated there is a path from VDSL to G.fast which could allow for continued response to evolving consumer demand for bandwidth.

 

Bandwidth demand is the outstanding question

Amongst the uncertainties perhaps the most serious is what bandwidth will be demanded in the coming years.  For the umpteenth time we all sat around and speculated about aggregation, internet of things, 8K TV and so on.  A familiar liturgy for many.  While there isn’t, and frankly is unlikely to be, significant resolution to this question in general terms we will learn more in the coming months about the take-up rates of higher bandwidth offerings and what people want to do and actually can do.

However the picture is likely to be that bandwidth will segment the market further.  Some will want more for various reasons but it won’t be a blanket picture and that will likely end up frustrating a number of people. There was feedback that there is resistance to paying much more for bandwidth over the 100Mbps level, even in some multi-person households.  That’s not to say there isn’t demand just that it has a lower ceiling, we believe, than many have been forecasting at the five year horizon.

We do know that consumers are getting more sophisticated.  ISPs are operating in a market place where services and deliverables are starting to dominate a traditional broadband marketing message of more bandwidth.

This in our view reinforces the business case for VDSL and G.fast.  It is still more cost effective than end to end fibre and as the moment looks likely to be able to satisfy demand for at least another five years and more in many instances.

Reports from the trials also helped to cement the place of G.fast in the plans of many.  now that it can achieve, thanks to advances in vectoring, a aggregate of 200Mbps at 400 metres that brings significantly more people into the reach of cabinet based (rather than drop point or street) G.fast in many markets.  While there are plainly differentials in loop lengths in different markets the advances seemed to have pleased both BT and Swisscom.

Indeed Swisscom are apparently the most advanced in deploying copper extension technologies in Europe.  With a clear strategy and plenty of homes passed they are showing the EU28 a clean pair of heels at the moment.  Credit to Swisscom and Oliver Lamparter for the slides below.

swisscom deploy

high speed deployment

 

High speed in switzerland

swiss high speed

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