Standards will help boost broadband over copper

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Communications Alliance, Australia's telecoms industry body responsible for technical standards covering the provision of telecommunications services, has issued two specifications that will be essential to the Government realising its aim of providing 'fibre-like' broadband speeds over copper using fibre to the node (street corner cabinet) rather than all the way to the customer's premises.

Announcing the move, Communications Alliance said: "The two draft standards – released for public comment – will help equipment suppliers and retail service providers ensure broadband modems on copper lines are able to support high data rates and are also designed to filter out interference to existing services."

The new standards update those for current broadband services delivered over telephone lines using DSL (digital subscriber line) technology to cover the newer Vectored DSL technology (VDSL2). VDSL2 increases the rate that data can be delivered over copper telephone lines - over short distances.

According to Comms Alliance, "Trials of vectored VDSL2 earlier this year have delivered downstream rates of 100Mbps for many users." It adds: "As the NBN moves from trials of VDSL2 and into large scale rollout of the technology, these standards, once finalised, will be an important piece of the multi-technology mix used to deliver telephony and broadband services over the NBN."

Communications Alliance CEO, John Stanton, said: “Vectored VDSL2 has been shown in Australia and elsewhere to be a valuable technology that can deliver near-fibre data rates using, in part, the copper ‘last mile’. But unless the technical parameters are set correctly, the speed increase available through vectoring will be largely lost, and VDSL2 can also seriously erode the quality of the legacy services located in its vicinity."

He added: “This last point is particularly important as the NBN rolls out across the country.

In each area migrating to the NBN there will be an 18 month period during which new and legacy services need to co-exist without undue interference to one another, until eventually all fixed terrestrial services end up being migrated to the NBN."

What the Communications Alliance release did not mention was that the 100Mbps speed is available only over about 150m to 500m depending on the quality of the copper lines. Beyond that distance, the bandwidth falls off rapidly.

NBN Co announced in March that it was trialling VDSL2 in the Melbourne suburbs of Carlton, Parkville and Brunswick. It said that preliminary tests of VDLS2 undertaken in December 2013 had produced download speeds of more than 100Mbps and upload speeds of more than 40Mbps. 

NBN Co’s then chief technology officer, Gary McLaren, envisaged the technology being used to deliver the NBN into multi-tenant buildings from a fibre node in the basement.

"Up to 12,000 buildings containing around one million individual premises could be served by FTTB," he said. "This pilot scheme, and the fibre-to-the-node trials we’re currently scoping, will help us determine the fastest and most cost-effective way to deliver access to high speed broadband sooner."

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