The first applied use of a transmission protocol that can theoretically reach gigabit speeds over standard home copper connections debuts today, with the release of Sckipio Technology’s G.Fast chipset.
The G.Fast standard, approved in 2013 by the International Telecommunications Union, describes a protocol designed to achieve very high speeds over nothing more than the regular paired copper wires used in most U.S. homes. The drawback is that G.Fast only works over comparatively short distances – anything beyond 250 meters or so, delivered speeds drop precipitously, thanks to a noisy signal.
Today’s announcement includes two chipsets, the DP3000 distribution point unit, presumably designed to operate at the fiber end of the connection, and the CP1000, meant for the end user’s modem. Sckipio said that each DP3000 can support up to 16 separate connections and as much as 10Gbps of total backhaul. Initial OEMs include XAVi, Suttle, Zinwell and VTech.
The idea, according to G.fast proponents like Sckipio, is to deliver very high speed Internet services to homes while obviating the need for a time-consuming and costly upgrade to fiber-optic cable. G.fast-enabled access points could sit in, say, an apartment building’s basement or close to several smaller dwellings, providing high-speed service without the use of fiber connections for each home. Initial performance testing, performed by British Telecom, was encouraging – G.fast hit 800Mbps download speeds in laboratory conditions over a 62-foot cable.
Despite the potential upsides, G.fast might not be coming to a junction box or telephone pole near you any time soon. Former FCC chief of staff Blair Levin told the MIT Technology Review in 2013 that the technology faces the same hurdle as direct fiber-to-the-home – a lack of impetus among America’s heavily consolidated service providers to spend money on new infrastructure, even on a system that would be cheaper than FTTH.
Nevertheless, Sckipio marketing vice president Michael Weissman was unsurprisingly bullish on G.fast’s prospects, saying that, contrary to Levin’s skepticism, the company is actually “under pressure” from major telecoms to deliver G.fast gear as quickly as possible.
“Virtually every large service provider is considering G.fast because it offers tremendous economic benefits not only in terms of their cost to deploy, but also their cost to support consumers in comparison to alternative technologies,” he told Network World.
According to Weissman, Levin’s criticism rests on what he says is a faulty assumption that the status quo is more attractive to carriers than an upgrade to G.fast.
“Carriers today are either installing VDSL or fiber,” he said. “Both are disliked. … In applications where G.fast is practical, it will be far less expensive to deploy.”