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Globe Telecom considers G.fast after 4G

Philippines telecommunications giant Globe Telecom has indicated that it may choose to use G.fast VDSL technology to reach buildings where legacy copper can't be replaced with fibre and fixed wireless can't cope with demand.

When fixed 4G networks can no longer cope with user demand in the Philippines, Globe Telecom has said it will likely opt for fibre to the node and G.fast technology.

Globe Telecom is a major mobile and fixed-line player in the Philippines, with over 47 million mobile customers and 2.2 million broadband customers as of the end of June this year. When the company looked to get an edge over its growing competition in the fixed-line market in 2008, Globe Telecom needed to install a fixed network, but Manny Estrada, Globe Telecom's senior vice president of technical services, said that WiMax technology was the only advanced technology available at that stage that could be rolled out quickly.

"At that point in time, I wanted to do LTE, but LTE was not quite ready. We were not quite ready to roll out copper and fibre, because that would take too long," he said at the Alcatel-Lucent Technology Symposium on Wednesday.

"So we did a bet on WiMax with our eyes wide open. We knew it wasn't going to be the technology of the future, limited ecosystem, development doesn't seem to be picking up at all.

"We told them this technology will last them five years until we could get LTE on the ground."

Today, there are close to half a million customers on the WiMax network in the Philippines, but in September, Globe Telecom announced Project Vindicator to replace the WiMax network with a time-division duplex (TDD) long-term evolution (LTE) network.

Alcatel-Lucent has been brought on to provide TDD-LTE and frequency division duplex (FDD) LTE out to around 1,700 sites, as well as a converged network management system for the network.

The FDD network is being built as a fixed-wireless network operating in the 2.5GHz spectrum band, but Estrada said that both the FDD and TDD networks are being built to be used by fixed and mobile customers, due to the iPhone 6 being compatible with 4G in both FDD and TDD varieties.

Despite just announcing the new network, Estrada said that Globe is constantly looking at keeping up with customer demands, growing competition, regulatory pressure, and spectrum shortages. This means constantly having a network evolution strategy to be planning ahead, Estrada said.

"You need to be able to understand what technologies are coming in the future, and be able to prepare the network to be able to adapt to these technologies as soon as they become viable," he said.

He said that Globe is already considering G.fast as a way to improve coverage in legacy buildings, where Globe cannot roll out fibre to each premises, and where TD-LTE can't meet customer demand.

"Ultimately, the plan is to look at to where we can take our TD-LTE to meet customer usage. Personally, I believe that in the future, as usage at home continues to rise, then wireless might not be the right solution for that. In that case, we're looking at G.fast today. It's a very, very interesting proposition for us," he said.

G.fast promises fibre-to-the-premises speeds over short distances of copper through a combination of DSL technologies including pair-bonding, vectoring to eliminate cross-talk on VDSL2, and "phantom mode", which creates virtual pairs between copper pairs.

Estrada said that G.fast would be useful in buildings where the company could not get fibre installed.

"In the Philippines, there's a lot of legacy buildings where we can never get our fibre in, and we do have copper in place," he said.

"With G.fast, we should be able to even meet the requirements in those buildings. Even with G.fast being tested out in the Philippines, the fibre is being built closer and closer to the customers.

"We have not discounted fibre. For us, it's not a question of fibre or copper, but actually fibre and copper working together. In our case, also with wireless."

Josh Taylor travelled to the Technology Symposium as a guest of Alcatel-Lucent.