Backed with the drive to push the limits of what is possible to “invent the Future” Bell Labs, the research arm of Alcatel-Lucent, has set a new broadband speed record of 10 gigabits-per-second (Gbps) using traditional copper telephone lines and a prototype technology that demonstrates how existing copper access networks can be used to deliver 1Gbps symmetrical ultra-broadband access services.
Achieving 1 Gbps ‘symmetrical’ services in which bandwidth can be split to provide simultaneous upload and download speeds of 1 Gbps, is a breakthrough for copper broadband. It will enable operators to provide Internet connection speeds that are indistinguishable from fibre-to-the-home services, a major business benefit in locations where it is not physically, economically or aesthetically viable to lay new fibre cables all the way into residences. Thus, fibre can be brought to the curbside, wall or basement of a building and the existing copper network used for the final few metres.
“Our constant aim is to push the limits of what is possible to ‘invent the future’, with breakthroughs that are 10 times better than are possible today. Our demonstration of 10 Gbps over copper is a prime example: by pushing broadband technology to its limits, operators can determine how they could deliver gigabit services over their existing networks, ensuring the availability of ultra-broadband access as widely and as economically as possible.” Marcus Weldon, President of Bell Labs said.
The primary factors influencing broadband speeds over copper include distance and Frequency. Other significant factors that can influence actual speeds include the quality and thickness of the copper cable and cross-talk between adjacent cables.
In terms of distance, the longer the copper connection between the access node and the customer’s telephone socket, the slower the broadband speed, dictated by attenuation. While in terms of frequency, the wider the frequency range, the faster the broadband speed that can be achieved. During testing, Bell Labs showed that XG-FAST technology can deliver 1 Gbps symmetrical services over 70 metres (for the cable being tested). This was achieved using a frequency range of 350 MHz. Signals at higher frequencies were completely attenuated after 70 metres.
For the new breakthrough, the Bell Labs tests used a prototype technology called XG-FAST. This is an extension of G.fast technology, a new broadband standard currently being finalised by the ITU. When it becomes commercially available in 2015, G.fast will use a frequency range for data transmission of 106 MHz, giving broadband speeds up to 500 Mbps over a distance of 100 metres.
In contrast, XG-FAST uses an increased frequency range up to 500 MHz to achieve higher speeds but over shorter distances. Bell Labs achieved 1 Gbps symmetrical over 70 metres on a single copper pair. 10 Gbps was achieved over a distance of 30 metres by using two pairs of lines which is a technique known as “bonding”. Both tests used standard copper cable provided by a European operator.
Commenting on the achievement, Federico Guillén, President of Alcatel-Lucent’s Fixed Networks business said: “The Bell Labs speed record is an amazing achievement, but crucially in addition they have identified a new benchmark for ‘real-world’ applications for ultra-broadband fixed access. XG-FAST can help operators accelerate FTTH deployments, taking fibre very close to customers without the major expense and delays associated with entering every home. By making 1 gigabit symmetrical services over copper a real possibility, Bell Labs is offering the telecommunications industry a new way to ensure no customer is left behind when it comes to ultra-broadband access.”
Paris based Alcatel-Lucent is a global communications, providing products and innovations in IP and cloud networking, as well as ultra-broadband fixed and wireless access to service providers and their customers, and to enterprises and institutions throughout the world. Its innovations have resulted in its Group being recognized by Thomson Reuters as a Top 100 Global Innovator, as well as being named by MIT Technology Review as amongst 2012’s Top 50 “World’s Most Innovative Companies”. With revenues of Euro 14.4 billion in 2013, Alcatel-Lucent is listed on the Paris and New York stock exchanges.