How will American operators deliver the capacity to meet new FCC Broadband Definitions?
The American telecommunications industry is in the midst of another generational change following the recent announcement by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to change the definition of broadband to increase the threshold speed.
The new definition of broadband will see the minimum standard raised from 4 Mb/s to 25 Mb/s for downloads and 1 Mb/s to 3 Mb/s for uploads. Under the previous definition, 19 million Americans were currently lacking broadband access but with the new definition in place, this has grown exponentially to 55 million (17% of the population).
With the newly announced increase in minimum standards for broadband speeds, operators across America are being forced to consider infrastructure developments to ensure that their networks will have the capacity to deliver the massive increases in bandwidth demand and changing geographical patterns of data use.
While fibre, with its ability to provide virtually unlimited data throughput, is deemed the obvious solution to deliver the increased broadband speeds in an ideal world, it is by nature a very costly option and one that is often hard to justify for a national scale roll out, both financially and commercially. Instead operators need to look at complementary alternatives, to enhance their existing infrastructure while avoiding huge up-front costs and the years necessary to realise a return on investment.
Since the announcement was made by FCC, there has been an increased interest in copper technologies and it’s easy to see why. Copper is already in the ground, so there is no cost or disruption relating to civil works. Some operators are turning to technologies such as VDSL2 vectoring and G.fast vectoring which allow operators to gain more speed and capacity from their existing networks where fibre is deployed to the cabinet.
However, a gap does exist, as these technologies offer little bandwidth increases where homes are more than 750m from the fibre fed cabinet, or where there is no fibre deployed. Another innovative technology has emerged that steps into this breach: DSL Rings. Developed by Genesis Technical Systems, a Canadian-British company, the multi-award winning DSL Rings can give customers twenty times their current bandwidth – up to 400 Mb/s over existing copper wires, delivering affordable superfast broadband at a fraction of the price of Fibre-to-the-Home (FttH).
The DSL Ring solution is composed of two components, one on the physical network and the other inside the customer’s home. On the physical network a Convergence Node (CN) is deployed at the distribution point to manage from 2 to 15 houses or premises. Each house is equipped with a Home Gateway (HGW). Exchange gateway software developed to monitor all of the rings deployed across the network is installed at the local exchange location. With a full set of tools embedded into the software including network management systems, provisioning and auto-heating functions, operators are able to deliver superfast broadband over the existing copper telephone wires at the speeds expected by the new definition of broadband.
With an estimated 50% of the 55 million homes that do not meet the new broadband criteria falling into this category, operators need to seriously consider new technologies that allow them to deliver these increased speeds, particularly in remote areas.