BT (NYSE: BT) may be one of the early providers to go public about G.fast trials for consumers, but its recent lab trial to deliver a Cloud Radio Access Network (C-RAN) cellular network service over copper shows that the technology has other potential uses.
C-RAN is a new network architecture wireless operators can use to connect cellular base stations to their core networks.
In conjunction with U.S.-based semiconductor manufacturer Cavium, researchers at BT's Adastral Park Labs in Ipswich demonstrated that they can use G.fast technology to deliver cellular data over copper lines at speeds of 150-200 Mbps.
Cavium is supplying its OCTEON Fusion-M base station and ThunderX server processor technology to validate this new class of Radio Access application with G.fast technology.
While fiber is the preferred media for backhaul, G.fast could potentially be another means wireless operators could use in areas where they can't build a case to use fiber-based connections.
Since it leverages the telco's widespread copper network, BT claims that C-RAN service delivered over G.fast could "significantly lower the cost of deployment for mobile operators building out 4G networks today and upcoming 5G architectures.
The C-RAN trial comes at a time when BT has been taking a serious look at how G.fast technologies can be used in its access networks to deliver higher speed services over existing copper for its own last-mile customers as well as the wholesale carrier customers served by its Openreach division.
On the access network side, Openreach is trialling G.fast in Huntingdon and Gosforth, alongside a BT technical trial in Swansea.
The new Swansea trial focuses on how G.fast can be used to serve multiple dwelling units (MDUs), such as apartment blocks and business centers. About 100 homes and businesses in the Swansea SA1 Waterfront and Maritime Quarter will benefit from the free technical trial, which will last for around six months.
Gavin Patterson, CEO of BT, said during its third quarter 2016 earnings call that while the telco still needs regulatory clarity from the UK's telecom regulator Ofcom, the trials with 8 service provider customers are on track.
BT has taken a slightly different approach to delivering G.fast.
For the G.fast trials it is conducting with Nokia's (NYSE:NOK) Alcatel-Lucent subsidiary, Adtran, as well as Huawei, BT is finding it can deliver about 330 Mbps to a home within 300 meters of a remote terminal (RT) cabinet.
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