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Alcatel-Lucent demonstrates 10 Gbps transmission using copper

Bell Labs, the research arm of Alcatel-Lucent, has set a new broadband speed record of 10 gigabits-per-second 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.

This technology has the potential to to extend the life of existing copper access networks, as they can now offer capacity comprable to FTTH style deployments. Another benefit for network operators is an increased timescale for investment in the network as the last mile can often be the most time consuming and expensive to deploy fibre -- by utilising the existing copper infrastructure operators can recover investments before running fibre directly to the end users.

Achieving 1 Gbps 'symmetrical' services – where bandwidth can be split to provide simultaneous upload and download speeds of 1 Gbps – is a major breakthrough for copper broadband. This technology can potentially be used to extend the life of existing copper access networks as network providers can offer services indistinguishable from FTTH services. This technology can enable ultra-high speed broadband services where it is not physically, economically or aesthetically viable to lay new fibre cables all the way into residences. Instead, fibre can be brought to the curbside, wall or basement of a building and the existing copper network used for the final few meters.

Marcus Weldon, President of Bell Labs said: ‘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.” 

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 meters. 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 meters on a single copper pair. 10 Gbps was achieved over a distance of 30 meters by using two bonded copper pairs. 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 fiber 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.’

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