Tessares CEO says DSL speed boost tech can help bridge the gap to fiber

Operators across the globe have outlined plans to roll out fiber, hailing the technology as the future of connectivity. But deployments are expected to take several years despite aggressive investments, with many players targeting the end of 2025 or even 2027 to complete their builds. That means potentially millions of customers on legacy technologies like copper DSL could be left in the lurch with glacial speeds for years to come. Tessares CEO Denis Periquet, however, told Fierce that doesn’t need to be the case since multipath TCP (MPTCP) offers a cost-effective way to boost speeds for those customers while they wait for fiber.

Tessares was founded in 2015 as a spin off from the Université catholique de Louvain in Belgium to commercialize MPTCP technology developed by researchers at the university and its partner institutions. MPTCP allows TCP-based internet traffic to be split between different access connections, such as fixed copper, Wi-Fi and 4G mobile, in order to boost speeds available to customers.  

Among other things, Tessares provides products which allow for the combination of copper and 4G mobile as well as Wi-Fi and mobile access channels, with the former boosting speeds and reliability for fixed users and the latter geared more toward increasing smartphone speeds. Periquet told Fierce it is currently working with two operators in Europe to pilot a version of its technology which will combine 5G with DSL.

According to Periquet, rolling out its copper-boosting technology requires only a “small investment” from operators. That includes about $10 to use its technology and between $70 to $100 for the required CPE.

“In contrast to those big projects like a fiber rollout or even 5G rollout, this is a very cost-effective solution,” he said, adding the technology uses existing operator assets to quickly deliver improved speeds. “Typically the kind of speed that operators are delivering with hybrid is 50 to 100 Mbps. But you know for a lot of people who have less than 10 [Mbps] it makes really a big difference. If you can go from 15 to 50 [Mbps] it’s a huge boost in terms of user experience.”

A Tessares representative told Fierce that it has reached gigabit speeds with its technology in the lab, but the actual speeds delivered to customers depend on both the amount of mobile bandwidth operators decide to allocate and the CPU power available from a user’s CPE.

Periquet noted around 15 operators in Europe have launched a commercial hybrid service using multipath technology. Around 7 of these use Tessares’ standards-based iteration. Periquet said its main competitor is Huawei, which offers a proprietary version of the same.

Among those using Tessares’ tech is BT, which recently said it would use it to double DSL speeds for enterprise customers to an average of 20 Mbps and in some cases boost speeds to as much as 40 Mbps. Proximus in Belgium, KPN in the Netherlands, and Telia in Finland and Lithuania are also employing MPTCP from Tessares to boost DSL speeds.

Beyond increasing speeds, Periquet said MPTCP can offer other benefits. For instance, he noted it provides a redundant connection to boost reliability. Some operators like BT have used this to monetize the service by branding it as “unbreakable internet.” According to a Tessares representative, MPTCP hybrid access can also allow an operator to support three times more fixed customers with their mobile network than fixed wireless access technology. That’s likely because the technology prioritizes the DSL connection to ensure that pipe is fully utilized before it leverages the mobile connection.

But while the technology is catching on with operators in Europe, Periquet said Tessares hasn’t seen as much interest from those in the U.S. market. He speculated that’s because it’s harder for U.S. operators to justify continued investments in copper when the focus for many investors is on fiber. The CEO said he hopes, however, that they might see the announcement from a major operator like BT and reconsider.