BT Newsbyte
BT's quarterly newsletter for analysts and investors - Issue 39 - December 2015

The future of G.fast – an ultrafast update

Mike GalvinBy Mike Galvin, Managing Director of Next Generation Access, BT Technology, Service & Operations

A potential future development of G.fast broadband technology, known as 'XG-FAST', has achieved speeds of more than 5Gbps in early experimental lab trials conducted by BT and Alcatel-Lucent. The results give us confidence that G.fast is a future-proof technology that can help the UK maintain its position as the leading digital economy in the G20.

G.fast, which has been pioneered by BT's R&D team and industry partners since 2007, is an important breakthrough as it enables ultrafast broadband to be delivered but without the disruption and expense of laying fibre all the way to a home or business. This means it can be rolled out more quickly and to a much larger number of premises, ensuring as many people benefit as possible.

G.fast technology is at the heart of plans for Openreach to deliver ultrafast speeds to 10 million premises by the end of 2020, and to most of the UK by the end of 2025. It will transform the speeds currently delivered by fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) technology and will form part of Openreach’s ultrafast product range, which also includes fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) technology in certain areas; in addition to dedicated business lines which are available throughout the UK and which already deliver speeds of up to 100Gbps.

G.fast trials

G.fast is currently being trialled by Openreach in Huntingdon and Gosforth. Triallists are receiving speeds of up to 330Mbps downstream, more than ten times the current UK average. If the trials prove successful – and if UK regulation continues to encourage investment – Openreach aims to start deploying G.fast in 2016/17 alongside its FTTC and FTTP services. In time, we expect speeds to rise to up to 500Mbps as the technology is rolled out across the country.

XG-FAST – even more potential in copper

XG-FAST, a potential future development of the technology, is in the early stages of lab testing, but has exceeded expectations in trials at Adastral Park, BT’s global research and development campus in Suffolk, and Alcatel-Lucent’s labs in Antwerp.

It delivered aggregate speeds1 of 5.6Gbps over 35 metres of BT copper cable, a record for full-duplex data transmission over a standard single BT line at this distance. The technology also performed well over longer distances, with aggregate speeds of 1.8Gbps over 100 metres; a significant result, as most UK homes are within this distance of their local distribution point, be that a pole or footway box.

The prospects are exciting. We know that G.fast will transform the UK’s broadband landscape but these results also give us confidence that the technology has significant headroom should we need it in the future.

The UK already boasts the biggest fibre footprint among major European nations, as well as the highest take up, but it is vital we continue to invest. G.fast is the ideal technology as it can be deployed at scale and speed, allowing as many people to benefit as soon as possible.

FTTP technology has a role to play but G.fast is the answer if the UK is to have widespread and affordable ultrafast broadband sooner rather than later.

1 'aggregate speed' is the sum of upstream and downstream speeds