EMERGING technology that promises to dramatically increase internet speeds over copper wires has been successfully trialled in the lab by the National Broadband Network (NBN), the company said.
NBN co has concluded its trials of high-bandwidth technology known as XG.FAST which commenced last month, claiming to have achieved “lightning fast” peak aggregate speed of 8Gbps over 30m of twisted-pair copper, it said in a statement Tuesday.
The mandated minimum speeds to be provided under the NBN is 25Mbps. According to the latest Akamai State of the Internet Report the average Australian broadband speed currently comes in at 8.5Mbps. As NBN co points out, the XG.FAST trials provide speeds which are 900 times faster than the current national average.
The NBN also said it achieved peak average speeds of 5Gbps over a 70m copper line.
A number of technologists and media commentators have lamented the NBN’s commitment to using Telstra’s ageing copper network (which will eventually need to be replaced) to help build much of the giant infrastructure project, but the company is keen to prove there is plenty of life left in copper with new technology allowing for greater performance.
“Although XG.FAST is still in its very early stages of development the lab trials we have conducted demonstrates the huge potential that the technology offers,” NBN’s chief technology officer Dennis Steiger said in a statement.
“XG.FAST gives us the potential ability to deliver multi-gigabit speeds over copper lines — virtually on a par with what is currently available on Fibre-to-the-Premises — but at a lower cost and time to deploy.
“While our core goal remains to connect eight million premises to the NBN by 2020 we are keeping a close eye on new technologies like XG.FAST to ensure we can meet the future bandwidth demands of Australian broadband users,” he said.
The lab trials were conducted at the NBN headquarters in northern Sydney in conjunction with vendor Nokia.
NBN co is the third operator in the global market to trial the technology, after the UK’s BT last year and Germany’s Deutsche Telekom in February.
SO WHAT IS XG. FAST?
Simply put XG.FAST is the next version of a Nokia-owned technology known as G.Fast which provides a way to send information across the end of a digital subscriber line (DSL) with much greater speeds.
G.Fast is seen by some as the answer to the copper versus fibre debate because it allows copper to be given fibre-like abilities, and is rolled out over the final 30 to 100m of copper wiring.
Chief executive Bill Morrow has always maintained the building of the NBN has been about getting the network to Australians as quickly as possible while ensuring a clear path to upgrade its potential.
During a site trip outside of Brisbane in March, Mr Morrow told news.com.au that with the emergence of new “techniques that are further advanced, that further reduce the cost … then we’ll push the fibre down the street to give people what they need, when they need it.”
The trial of XG.FAST technology is about ensuring he is able to make good on that promise.
The company recently announced it will abandon much of Optus’ cable TV network and instead opt to roll out fibre-to-the-distribution-point (FttDP) for an extra 700,000 premises, meaning fibre will be run closer to the final connection at the home.
While the rollout of XG.FAST in the field is still many years away, such FttDP connections could be the ideal place to start introducing the technology, and ultimately provide Australians with the broadband capabilities we will desperately require in the future.
By: Nick Whingham
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