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Next Generation Broadband - fibre is the way.
Friday 28 July 2006 11:41:00 by Andrew Ferguson

The copper local loop in the UK has done a lot more than it was originally designed to do, but the time is fast approaching when having a totally metallic line between your home and the exchange is starting to look very 1950's. Fibre optic cabling offers the prospect of much higher speeds, and to some extent is deployed closer to the home via the ntl:Telewest networks than with the BT telephone network. What we need to see in the UK is the gradual replacement, or a new fibre based consumer telecoms network alongside the copper network.

France Telecom is in the middle of a pilot scheme to look at deploying Fibre To The Home. This is taking place in five districts of Paris and will employ GPON technology. For €70 per month, people on this trial will get unlimited telephone calls, digital TV and broadband access. BT has run limited trials of fibre to the home in the UK, and also fibre to the cabinet (kerb), but no commitments have been made to actually roll anything out as yet. For those wanting to read more on the French trial, but like me you don't speak good French, use Alta Vista's Babelfish website to do the translation.

The UK is not without its talk of fibre deployment and major upgrades to the local loop, South Yorkshire is in the talking stages of a project that might see fibre deployed to every property in the area via a Digital Region project. Other parts of the UK are also looking into this sort of thing, as a way of ensuring continuing growth or revival of their economy, e.g. Berwick and Somerset.

The most likely course for most of the UK seems to be a roll-out of fibre to the cabinet, where BT install fibre alongside existing copper cables to the green street cabinets of which the UK has around 85,000 and install a small DSLAM in each cabinet to feed broadband/telephone and other services to the properties generally within 1000 to 2000 feet. The short distance of copper involved means much higher speeds are possible, and standards like ADSL2+, VDSL and VDSL2 can be exploited to their maximum. Fujitsu just recently announced integration of Terrawave GPON technology (to read about GPON visit Wikipedia) into its GeoStream Access Gateway MSAN platform, which is one of the platforms BT is using now for ADSL services, and future 21CN network upgrades.

If you look back to the history of the telephone network in the United Kingdom which back in 1878 was lots of small private companies, with the GPO forming in 1896 and becoming BT in 1984, then there are similarities with the way fibre is starting to flesh out. Now is the perfect time to avoid the problems of different technical solutions that has plagued the digital upgrades for companies like NTL and Telewest, who have absorbed the various cable networks of the 1980's, and create a single entity responsible for a true 21st Century local network, to replace what is really now a network racing towards old age. Whoever does deploy fibre in the UK for the consumer needs the support and financial backing of people willing to look at the long term, in the region of 10 to 30 years, a period a lot more than what many consider to be long term.

If you want to discuss this topic, visit our forums, where this particular post will let you express your opinion, or simply ask any questions about fibre roll-outs that you have.


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