After a period of testing G.Fast technology in April in the small village of Bibern, Swisscom has widened the test to a small portion of its households to G.Fast service, offering speeds up to 500Mbps. Swisscom plans to expand the scale of the G.Fast deployment to all of its Fiber-to-the-building (FTTB) and fiber-to the-street (FTTS) connections from 2016. Swisscom has partnered with Huawei to deliver the G.Fast technology.
Swisscom has embarked upon a €1.6B investment in its infrastructure, with which the company plans a multi-pronged access strategy to include full fiber-to-the-home (FTTH), FTTS, FTTB, and vectored VDSL access technologies. G.Fast represents an important element of this strategy, with Swisscom planning to use the technology to leverage higher bandwidth speeds without requiring the full FTTH investment.
FTTH is still viewed as the most future-proof access technology for high bandwidth services, though not without significant challenges presented by the final last mile; CAPEX-heavy household disruptions such as the running of fiber optic cables underground to the household, which can require the digging up of the lawn or garden, as well as physical changes to the household itself, can make full FTTH deployment unappealing for service providers and consumers. The cost of consumer premise equipment can also present a financial burden, with the average sales price (ASP) of an ONT and router combination significantly higher than that of a DSL gateway.
G.Fast can provide an alternative to these last mile difficulties while still providing bandwidth speeds up to a gigabit. However, the promise of G.Fast gigabit service is highly dependent upon the distance of the copper loop line from the household. The technology requires the distribution point where the fiber optic cable terminates to be very close to the household for efficacy. G.Fast technology reaches signal degradation at about 100 meters of vectored copper VDSL lines. For very short loops, less than 100 meters, it is possible to use G.Fast for gigabit services. Between 100 and 200 meters, bandwidth speeds of 300 – 500Mbps are possible. After 200m, signal degradation is so rapid that G.Fast becomes redundant.
Swisscom’s approach suits its network topology very well. G.Fast is a very efficient solution for multi-dwelling units in densely populated urban areas, as fiber can be run to the building, or even to the floor, with the end result being very short copper loop lines over which G.Fast performs at its best.
Additionally, FTTS is a strategy in which the fiber optic cable is run to a cabinet in the street close to the household. If the ISP network topology is designed such that cabinets are within 200 meters of the households they serve, then broadband speeds up to 500Mbps can be served to those households over G.Fast technology.
Swisscom’s strategy to employ all these configurations is likely to be embraced by other telcos looking to deploy higher bandwidth. Gigabit speeds seem to be the goal for many operators on either cable, DSL or FTTH only ISPs, but uptake of these services is mixed, with some ISPs experiencing resistance from property owners not fully willing to commit to the property changes necessary to install FTTH. G.Fast can represent a bridge technology that provides higher bandwidth, if not gigabit speeds, to those households giving DSL ISPs a competitive alternative to bandwidth provided by cable operators using DOCSIS 3.0, where channel bonding technology is allowing for higher bandwidth speeds.