Adtran CEO says G.fast will combat cable's DOCSIS 3.1 threat, and MDUs are the place to start deployment

Huntsville, Ala. -- Call it the battle for copper-based speed dominance: An Adtran executive said that using G.fast to rapidly scale 1 Gbps services in multi-dwelling units (MDUs) is a no-brainer for service providers, as it can immediately combat cable’s emerging DOCSIS 3.1 network initiatives.

CEO Tom Stanton told FierceTelecom during an interview at the company’s Connect 2016 event here that telcos using G.fast for MDU applications can save network deployment capital because they can leverage and extend existing available copper or coax cable.

Adtran expects G.fast to begin rolling out in the first half of 2017.

“G.fast makes sense for anybody to use it, but it depends whether or not it makes sense to use it in single family or in an MDU,” Stanton said. “There’s no reason not to go with G.fast, especially when you can deliver gigabit speed on either coax fed or twisted copper pairs."

Already, a growing number of service providers are conducting field and lab trials of G.fast. Adtran itself is currently trialing G.fast with multiple U.S. carriers, and it expects the technology to be centered on its Mosaic SDN architecture. According to Adtran, Mosaic can accelerate the deployment of open networking platforms with a complete set of cloud-based applications and programmable network functions. 

A number of telcos have started to trial G.fast in MDU environments. 

Windstream, which recently began trialing Calix’s G.fast equipment in Lincoln, Nebraska, for example. The service provider told FierceTelecom in a previous interview that because G.fast equipment is incorporating more software-based virtual elements like SDN, it could also accelerate customer self-service in the future.

Meanwhile, AT&T has indicated that it plans to conduct lab trials and future field trials in MDUs of G.fast. The service provider can leverage the existing Cat 5, Cat 6 or copper cable to deliver up to 300-500 Mbps to each resident.

Since the majority of U.S.-based buildings are not fibered up, AT&T is talking to see what customers in these MDUs want out of their broadband service. For some customers that don’t want a telco drilling holes in their walls to deploy fiber, G.fast could be a viable alternative to get higher speeds.

In March, a report emerged that AT&T had begun testing G.fast technology in its labs and now is looking at how it could be used to bring up to 300 Mbps to multi-dwelling units (MDUs).

However, not all service providers see MDUs as the place where G.fast could be used. Other service providers like BT, which is currently trialing Adtran’s G.fast equipment, are eyeing a fiber to node or cabinet-based configuration for G.fast.

In February, BT announced it was testing Adtran's 500G fiber-to-the-distribution-point (FTTdp) platform at 2,000 premises in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, UK. BT is holding similar G.fast trials in Gosforth, located in northeast England, and Hethersett, Norfolk. Depending on if the move ahead with plans to begin deploying the technology in 2016 and 2017 alongside its fiber-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) and fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) services.

“BT is looking at using G.fast at less than 1,000 feet,” Stanton said. “BT did the math on what every meter of reach saved them and the cost differential between G.fast and rolling out fiber.”

Regardless of the deployment strategy, Stanton said that while deploying FTTH is still a viable option, the cable MSO community’s DOCSIS 3.1 drive could make it difficult for telcos to stay on pace with cable in the 1 Gbps services race. And 1 Gbps service is critical for providers to future proof their broadband offerings for at least a few years.

“Everybody can talk about fiber today -- and we believe there’s an awful lot of use cases for fiber -- but if you all of a sudden have a competitive threat in more than one city you’re going to be looking at the fastest and cheapest way to get a gigabit service out there,” Stanton said. “That’s where you’ll see the G.fast business case change.”

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