G.fast to reach nearly 30M homes, businesses by 2021, says research group


G.fast is still arguably a nascent technology trend, but recent pilot deployments by CenturyLink and trials being conducted by BT show that service provider community is keen on using the technology to extend fiber-like speeds into homes and businesses where it can’t make a case for a FTTP solution.  

With the promise of delivering up to 1 Gbps speeds over very short copper loops, Ovum forecast in a report commissioned by Australia’s NBN and BT that G.fast will serve nearly 30 million subscriber homes and businesses worldwide by 2021.

While the research firm says that the first commercial G.fast services won’t launch in a meaningful way until next year, the report says that the technology will support 29 million subscribers, or 3 percent of the global fixed broadband market, in just four years. 

A number of service providers in the United States, Europe and Asia are already moving with G.fast trials and pilot deployments.

CenturyLink announced in September that it installed G.fast technology in 44 multi-dwelling units (MDUs) in Platteville, Wisconsin, or nearly 800 apartments. For this initial deployment, CenturyLink is leveraging its own mix of existing copper and coax cable -- assets it gained as a result of a cable overbuild by its predecessor Qwest. 

What drove CenturyLink to consider G.fast for this group of MDUs was that it could not address these buildings with FTTH technology. Now these customers can now get 500/50 Mbps broadband speeds and Prism TV service.

Meanwhile, Windstream began a field trial targeting MDUs with G.fast in Lincoln, Nebraska. Using Calix's G.fast nodes and GigaFamily solutions, Windstream said it will increase broadband speeds to residential customers in what it says is a "select" number of buildings. However, it has not revealed what parts of the city will be the first to get the service.

Tony Thomas, CEO of Windstream, told investors in May that the provider expects the next version of the G.fast standard to enable it to penetrate more MDUs in its wireline territory.

CenturyLink wires 44 Wisconsin MDUs with G.fast, delivers 500/50 Mbps speeds
Windstream begins wiring up G.fast in Lincoln, Nebraska apartments

Outside of the U.S., service provider interest in G.fast is just as strong.

Ovum said it expects G.fast uptick in Europe to ramp quickly as a number of traditional incumbents like BT, Swisscom, Deutsche Telekom, Telekom Austria and Proximus (Belgium) have hatched plans to deploy G.fast technology to deliver affordable broadband connectivity quickly and cost-effectively, adding that about 11 percent of broadband services in Western Europe may be delivered via G.fast within five years.

Openreach, which oversees BT’s local wired networks, plans to launch a wide-scale G.fast service in 2017. By the end of 2020, Openreach plans to make what it call “ultrafast” service speeds available to 12 million premises using a mix of G.fast and FTTP technologies.

In its latest G.fast field trials, Openreach is delivering up to 330 Mbps. The company recently announced an extension to its pilot which will see around 140,000 homes and businesses across the country given access to G.fast by March 2017.

Australia’s nbn also held its first G.fast trial in October 2015 and has been conducting additional lab trials of XG.FAST in recent weeks.