NBN and Nokia trialling XG-FAST for multi-gigabit speeds on copper

The trials could allow copper-based broadband technologies including FttN, FttB, and FttDP to attain aggregate speeds of up to 8Gbps.

The company rolling out Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN) has announced that it is trialling XG-FAST technology with Nokia, with hopes of reaching aggregate speeds of between 5Gbps and 8Gbps.

The XG-FAST technology could be used across network technologies utilising copper for the last mile, including NBN's fibre-to-the-node (FttN), fibre-to-the-basement (FttB), and fibre-to-the-distribution-point (FttDP) networks.

"It is about making sure we provide a minimum performance level today with an upgrade path. This is vitally important," said NBN CEO Bill Morrow.

"We're constantly looking at new things that we can deploy that will give either a lower cost, faster time to get everybody connected, or better speeds. And that's where we think about FttDP ... we know that when we think about that technology, we think about G.fast as the technology that will go over the top of that to give us some pretty fast speeds, and most recently we've been testing XG-FAST that actually takes that out to a whole new level of multiple gigabits per second capability."

NBN is currently trialling FttDP across Sydney and Melbourne, with a possibility of launching FttDP services in 2018 at approximately 500,000 premises, although this footprint could be expanded thereafter.

NBN is the third operator in the world to test XG-FAST in lab trials, following BT in the United Kingdom and Deutsche Telekom in Germany. BT attained speeds of 5.8Gbps over 35m of copper, while Deutsche Telekom saw 8Gbps speeds over 50m of copper.

"XG-FAST [is] the next generation of network technology," explained Ray Owen, managing director of Nokia Oceania.

"What we'll do with this trial is seek to try and understand how this tech can be used in the context of what I think is one of the most unique environments worldwide within Australia."

NBN and Nokia's lab trial will utilise full-duplex XG-FAST tech over several different types of copper cabling, including the Australian standard two-pair copper cable used between street and premises, with up to 500MHz of spectrum to be used to simultaneously transmit data upstream and downstream.

"XG-FAST could offer us a much faster and cost-effective way to deliver multi-gigabit speeds to premises on our network, aside from trying to connect them all to fibre-to-the-premises technology," NBN CTO Dennis Steiger said.

"We already know from lived experience that trying to get a fibre connection into every single premise[s] can be a complicated, time-consuming experience, so we need to look for other solutions. Our primary goal is to continue with our current deployment of FttN/B network in order to get Australians on board the NBN network as fast as possible, but once that is completed we can then look at how we might push fibre deeper via FttDP in order to deliver ultra-fast speeds via XG-FAST."

XG-FAST could be launched by global operators commercially over the next 12 to 18 months, with the FttDP network aiming to launch in 2018.

In October last year, NBN and now Nokia-owned Alcatel Lucent also announced a trial of G.fast FttB technology that attained throughput speeds of 800Mbps.