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BT announces G.fast suppliers

Mobile operators have high hopes that high speed copper access technology will improve small cell and C-RAN case

The UK’s BT has been one of the biggest flagwavers for using G.fast technology to boost broadband speeds and support mobile backhaul, without relying on fiber. Now the telco has announced its first suppliers, Huawei and Nokia, with the aim of bringing the ‘copper-on-steroids’ links to 10 million premises.

G.fast is being eyed by the mobile operators as a technology to ease the challenges of small cell backhaul and Cloud-RAN fronthaul, though this may raise new issues over BT’s wholesale arm, which is deploying the fast links – since BT’s acquisition of the UK’s biggest MNO, EE, there have been calls for a complete separation of Openreach to avoid any favoritism to BT’s own operator when it comes to fiber or copper backhaul.

For now, G.fast will be first deployed for residential access in two villages, ,Gillingham and Cherry Hinton, later this year. “Openreach is pioneering G.fast technology because we want to get affordable ultrafast speeds to as many people as possible in the fastest possible time,” said CEO Clive Selley.

In February, BT announced tests in the UK which showed copper lines handling the speeds necessary for mobile Cloud-RAN fronthaul, achieving speeds of between 150Mbps and 200Mbps over G.fast connections within a C-RAN environment, in the operator’s Adastral Park labs in Ipswich. At the time, Dr Tim Whitley, managing director for research and innovation at BT, touted the results as a major breakthrough for the future of mobile data networks.

“These technologies will play a key role in 4G networks and will be fundamental to 5G architectures. The trials are another step towards a fixed and mobile network which will support customers’ increasing demands for data,” he said. Of course, BT’s mobile arm, EE, might be first to take advantage – it has already implemented several radical architectures in its quest to achieve 95% LTE coverage of the UK landmass (rather than population). BT, which conducted its C-RAN tests with chip provider Cavium, said in October last year that it had reached speeds of 5Gbps over copper using an advanced version of G.fast, XG.fast.

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