Terabit over copper changes the game

Operators get to squeeze more from their infrastructure, 5G gets a boost and consumers get their bandwidth.

The highlight of the recent G.fast summit 2017 was undoubtedly the announcement from John Cioffi of ASSIA (and internet hall of fame) that terabit DSL could be with us soon.  In an industry not immune to hype and the all too casual (mis)use of terminology it should be noted that Cioffi is responsible for the first ADSL and VDSL modems and has a reputation for being able to deliver.

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TDSL sends 50-600 GHz wireless signals in gaps between copper pairs. (Images: John Cioffi)

We won’t go into too much detail on the technical side, even if we could.  The channel hardening and MIMO parallels, plasmon polaritons, non-linear precoding and waveguides.  There’s a few stories out there but ASSIA are the best people to refer to.

They also pick out some of the impacts and drivers of bandwidths with 5G as a potential winner.  If we need lots of small cells then it’s definitely a plus that you have infrastructure in place that can take on backhaul duties.

What if it’s enough for everything though?  What if FTTP is great but you don’t have to spend $1000+ per premises in additional deployment to satisfy demand?

Eric Joyce from ADTRAN had a very interesting slide based on Dr Jakob Nielsen’s law of internet bandwidth (we should probably start capitalising that).  It’s plainly good to know what you may need to provide in the future.  While ‘leading edge’ users continue to push the technical envelope the effects of mass adoption and differing use cases seems to be having an impact as upward pressure on bandwidth could be tailing off.

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While operators may be in markets where they need to have the biggest numbers next to the downstream bandwidth and ‘fibre’ somewhere in the product title the average consumer may not need all the bells and whistles.  Cost and sufficiency, particularly if the wifi is fast enough, will be factors that grow in impact on decisions.

Even with the next generation of G.fast, higher frequencies, NLP and so on, it’s likely that plenty of consumers will still be serviced satisfactorily well into the middle of the next decade.  With terabit on the horizon, and 10Gbps at 500m looks feasible, and potentially even higher order modes (petabit DSL!) available the copper in the ground has been granted another extension.

ASSIA have plenty of experience in realising Cioffi’s ideas.  If some of the hurdles can be overcome, which we have little doubt will be cleared, this could be available to operators for deployment in the early 2020’s or even before.  Certainly in time for 5G commercial deployments and keeping up with expected consumer bandwidth demand easily.

That’s our estimate so don’t hold them to it but we expect to see copper infrastructure getting another lease of life as the possibilities and strategies sink in.

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