The week before last, I attended Broadband World Forum (BBWF) in beautiful London to learn more about how telecom operators are getting broadband services to customers. At this year’s conference, I had the pleasure of talking to numerous telecom operators, system and component manufacturers to hear what their thoughts were on recent developments in broadband access technologies. My primary objective was to determine in which cases did it really make sense to deploy fiber all the way to the premises or only part of the way.

It was apparent that many at the conference were pushing the latter option, as the focus of this year’s conference was clearly on G.fast. Advances in the technology have made it a viable alternative to VDSL and even to fiber-based technologies like PON. The crux of the interest is that G.fast enables fast speeds over twisted pair copper or coaxial cable.

Some of the advances that are helping G.fast achieve higher capacities include 212 MHz profiles (versus the current 106 MHz) in future amendments and dynamic time allocation (DTA).

There was less of a focus on achieving gigabit speeds versus last year’s conference, and more of a focus on networks that are simply much faster. It looks like some of the allure of gigabit networks has faded due to the cost-prohibitive nature of delivering fiber all the way to premises. For example, BT has decided to deploy Fiber-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) and then G.fast to the premises. FTTC generally involves a copper loop length of 300-350 meters. At these distances, G.fast will likely deliver speeds of 300-500 Mbps. Clearly not gigabit networks, but hardly something to scoff at.

In most broadband deployments, an operator’s existing infrastructure greatly affects what specific technologies the operator chooses to deploy next, and we expect the same between G.fast, VDSL, PON, and even Cable architectures going forward. Regardless, the next several years will be interesting for the broadband access market as operators look to deploy newer technologies into their networks.

System manufacturers with G.fast capable products include (in alphabetical order) ADTRAN, Calix, Huawei, Nokia, and ZTE. Much of the silicon powering these system manufacturers’ G.fast chips are either built in-house or powered by Broadcom or Sckipio.

Cheerio until next year BBWF, when I hope to see you in your new home of Berlin.