NBN Co is looking at how it can deliver fibre-level speeds on last-mile copper through a trial of the emerging XG.FAST technology in partnership with fixed networks partner Nokia.
Previous trials of the technology have shown multi-gigabit per second speeds are possible on standard copper wiring: in Germany data transmission rates exceeded 8Gbps over a 50m copper line length, while in the UK speeds of 5.6Gbps were reached over a 35m line length.
NBN Co and Nokia will undertake lab trials of XG.FAST over the next few weeks to ascertain whether similar results can be achieved on the predominantly FTTN-based Australian network. The network builder will roll out fibre-to-the-node/basement to as many as 6.5 million premises out of the total 11.9 million to be served by the NBN.
The trials will test XG.FAST over a range of of copper cabling, including the standard two-pair copper cable usually used between street and premise. XG.FAST extends the 106MHz wide radio-frequency spectrum used in G.Fast to as much as 500MHz.
The emerging nature of the technology means deployment of XG.FAST is unlikely for several years. Nokia has only three commercial customers of XG.FAST globally.
“There’s no single way to deliver broadband,” Nokia Oceania managing director Ray Owen said.
“We will seek to try and understand how this technology can be used in the context of what I think is probably one of the most unique environments worldwide.”
NBN Co expects XG.FAST will be most applicable to its planned fibre-to-the-distribution point (FTTdp) network - which is currently in trials in Sydney and Melbourne - given the technology works best on short copper loops.
An FTTdp deployment sees fibre run to the front of a customer’s premises, using an existing copper cable for the lead in. A distribution point unit powered by the house or business connects the fibre and the copper.
NBN Co expects that deploying XG.FAST via a distribution point unit would avoid the costs of deploying full fibre-to-the-premise while still providing similar speed levels.
"We already know from lived experience that trying to get a fibre connection into every single premise can be a complicated, time consuming experience – so we need to look for other solutions," NBN CTO Dennis Steiger said.
The network builder is planning to launch FTTdp services in 2018 within a footprint of around 500,000 premises, but this number could increase should NBN Co see strong demand for the product.