CenturyLink says G.fast is a non-disruptive means to enhance Ethernet delivery, upgrade existing FTTC sites

CenturyLink headquarters

CenturyLink recently completed a large G.fast deployment in Platteville, Wisconsin, to deliver up to 500 Mbps broadband in 44 multi-dwelling units (MDUs), but the telco sees the opportunity to use the technology to enhance the reach of its Ethernet service. 

Initially focusing on serving consumers in the college town, the service provider could use G.fast to address business customers that desire higher Ethernet speeds. By leveraging existing coax and copper, CenturyLink can extend Ethernet services to more customers with minimal disruption to a building’s tenants.

Curt Frankenfeld, director of access strategy development for CenturyLink, told FierceInstaller that G.fast will complement its ongoing fiber-based Ethernet play in buildings where it could not build a business case to bring fiber.

“It gives us some advantages when we start talking about business multi-tenant units,” Frankenfeld said in an interview with FierceInstaller. “It gives us the capability of supporting very high symmetric speeds that our business customers want and we don’t have to rewire the building.”

From a technology standpoint, G.fast will enable CenturyLink to overcome the distance challenges in delivering Ethernet to certain businesses via traditional Category 5 cable.

“We don’t have to live with the limitations of carrying Ethernet over Cat 5 where I have a 300 feet limit for a 100 Mbps product,” Frankenfeld said. “We could get a 100 Mbps product out to 1,200 feet on G.fast from what we’re seeing in the lab.”

To equip each building with G.fast, CenturyLink connects the coax wiring in each MDU to Calix’s AXOS G.fast solution for its Gaits deployment in Platteville, with all systems and services managed via the cloud through Calix’s Compass Consumer Connect Plus software.

One of the differentiators here for CenturyLink is that the coax plant in these buildings is not shared. In this case, CenturyLink has a coax network that has a home run from each apartment to a telecom closet.

“We’re using coax to distribute the G.fast signal in many of these buildings,” Frankenfeld said. “There are a few that are twisted pair, but if you have coax to use it’s a better conductor as long it’s not a shared facility.”

At the same time, G.fast also provides a less disruptive means to serve the business community. CenturyLink can deploy the optical data unit (ODU) nearby a business site if the building owner does not want to provide the telco access to their wiring closet.

“We can deploy an ODU outside a building if we don’t have access to go inside the building,” Frankenfeld said. “It gives us another way of working with the community and solving problems for us, for building owners as well as for our customers in those buildings.”

Thwarting the cable threat

CenturyLink’s timing could not be better, particularly as it looks to attract new and potentially win back other customers that churned to a cable operator.

Driven by sales of Ethernet and MPLS, CenturyLink’s second quarter strategic business revenues were $1.23 billion, up 5 percent year-over-year from the second quarter of 2015, primarily due to the increased high-bandwidth data revenues being partially offset by lower hosting revenues.

However, overall business revenues were $2.6 billion, down 2.3 percent from the second quarter 2015 due to a decline in legacy revenues, which was partially offset by 8 percent growth in high-bandwidth data revenues.

What this says is the ability to leverage existing copper and coax plant will give CenturyLink a near-term means to battle cable operators, which are also rapidly expanding their business service footprints via their existing HFC via DOCSIS 3.1 and fiber networks.

It’s not difficult to see how disruptive cable is being in the business services space. After completing its acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Communications, Charter Communications surpassed Verizon as the third largest U.S.-based Ethernet provider.

Revamping FTTC sites

In addition to enhancing the telco’s ability to deliver higher speed business services over existing plant, CenturyLink can apply G.fast technology in other network scenarios besides MDUs.

Similar to AT&T predecessor BellSouth, CenturyLink deployed fiber-to-the-curb in various markets and it can now extend that existing infrastructure to provide higher speeds by implementing G.fast.

This could include installing G.fast in fiber-fed multi-tenant units (MTUs) and neighborhoods where it has existing fiber-to-the-curb (FTTC) builds that will allow G.fast to push higher speeds over the short copper loop into the home.

“The other reason for doing this is that we do have some remaining fiber to the curb properties and we have converted a lot of those to fiber to the premises,” Frankenfeld said. “There are some where fiber to the premises did not make cost sense so G.fast is an economic solution for that to support those service areas.”

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