Windstream: G.fast enhances 1 Gbps self-installation, network management in multi-dwelling units

Windstream recently began a field trial of G.fast targeting multi-dwelling units (MDUs) in Lincoln, Nebraska, with the aim of leveraging existing copper to deliver up to 1 Gbps speeds to customers.

During the field trial, Windstream will test the various operational issues that affect the delivery of broadband and customer bandwidth experience. The service provider is leveraging Calix’s equipment, including its E3-16F G.fast sealed distribution point unit (DPU) nodes and GigaFamily products.

What’s compelling about using G.fast for a telco like Windstream is that it allows them to leverage and extend the existing copper facilities that are widely present in MDUs within its serving area. Depending on the condition of the copper, Windstream can further expand its broadband base with higher speeds to more effectively battle a larger Charter Communications.  

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“Being able to leverage those existing facilities in place is advantageous in term of time to market,” said Art Nichols, VP of network architecture and technology for Windstream, in an interview with FierceInstaller. “Even enabling Gigabit-like services over copper infrastructure is something that holds some attraction.”

For Windstream, the advent of G.fast does not dramatically accelerate service installation or turn up time over previous generations of DSL service.

“In terms of customer turn up time once the infrastructure is in place inside the building, initially we don’t see a lot of difference in our service velocity for G.fast-based broadband from other DSL-like solutions,” Nichols said. “Initially, we’re leveraging the same types of solutions including TR-69 and ACS servers to enable minimal touch provisioning and self-install capability.”

Nichols added that the G.fast technology, which is incorporating more software-based virtual elements like SDN, could also accelerate customer self-service.

“We do certainly see an opportunity to approach management and provisioning in a pretty significant way with G.fast,” Nichols said. “It seems to have been built from the ground up with the notion of more SDN-like techniques to be able to support a next-generation approach to managing the premises gear and also these DPUs.”

MDUs may be the near-term focus, but the next question is how Windstream could apply G.fast in other network configurations.

While Windstream is watching telcos like BT using G.fast in a fiber-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) configuration, Windstream’s initial focus for G.fast will be serving MDUs.

“The focus here is MDU with an in-building play and that’s where we see the current iterations of G.fast being most applicable and having the most advantage for Windstream,” Nichols said. “We certainly see and follow the discussion from BT and others that view G.fast as fiber to node or cabinet-based technology, but we have not looked to be as aggressive in carrying G.fast outside a building or a campus environment.”

To deliver G.fast-like services, which it is confident it can deliver up to 1 Gbps, Windstream is leveraging a fiber to the building (FTTB) architecture. The service provider will then deploy distribution point units (DPUs) at each tenant location that a customer would connect to get their broadband service.

Nichols said that Windstream will be able to scale G.fast further as vendors expand the density of current systems to support more ports. Since the standard G.fast DPU can support 16 ports, the telco has to stack these devices on each floor of an MDU.  

“Depending on density and layout of the facility that could mean stacks of DPUs in the basement or it could mean runs to individual floors,” Nichols said. “One of the things that we’re looking for G.fast in the future is for the chipset to drive larger scale for some of those units.”

Nichols said that the service provider is looking at using G.fast in a number of different MDU configurations, including not only apartments, but also condominiums and college campuses.

“A college campus environment would be treated very similar to how we would treat an apartment building depending on the density of individual floors,” Nichols said.

Related articles:
Windstream begins wiring up G.fast in Lincoln, Nebraska apartments
Windstream's Thomas: G.fast will deepen our MDU broadband presence

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