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Thursday, 22 April 2010 11:37

A spanner in the NBN works? Alcatel-Lucent gets 100Mbps over 1km of copper


In a development that could have profound impacts for Australia's NBN, and the ongoing negotiations between Telstra and the Government, Alcatel-Lucent's Bell Labs has achieved a DSL downstream bandwidth of 300Mbps over 400metres (100Mbps at 1km) using two copper pairs.

Alcatel-Lucent's press release quoted Ovum analyst, Kamalini Ganguly, saying: "Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs' DSL Phantom Mode lab test adds a whole new dimension to the ongoing '100Mbps for all' debate. The fact that existing copper loops can facilitate 300Mbps at 400metres reshapes the whole next-generation broadband competitive environment - and will open up a wide range of new business opportunities for 'traditional' DSL players.

"This announcement shows that Alcatel-Lucent is seriously looking at all possible innovations to help its customers speed up the deployment of next-generation access networks, through a smart mix of advanced copper and fibre technologies."

If the technology can be commercialised economically within the next few years it could have a significant impact on Australia's NBN. Clearly the possibility of its network being able to deliver 100Mbps via DSL to customers 1km from the exchange would considerably increase the competitive threat the Telstra's existing network could pose to the NBN.

The throughput was achieved using a technology called "DSL Phantom Mode". Gee Rittenhouse, head of Research for Bell Labs, suggested that it has very real commercial possibilities.


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"What makes DSL Phantom Mode such an important breakthrough is that it combines cutting edge technology with an attractive business model that will open up entirely new commercial opportunities for service providers, enabling them in particular, to offer the latest broadband IP-based services using existing network infrastructure."

According to Alcatel-Lucent, "At its core, DSL Phantom Mode involves the creation of a virtual or 'phantom' channel that supplements the two physical wires that are the standard configuration for copper transmission lines."

'DSL Phantom Mode' appears to be a new phrase coined by Alcatel-Lucent - a Google search produced no references that could not be traced back to Alcatel-Lucent's press release - and the company's 'explanation' throws little light on what it is or how it works.

"Bell Labs' innovation and the source of DSL Phantom Mode's dramatic increase in transmission capacity lies in its application of analogue phantom mode technology in combination with industry-standard techniques: vectoring that eliminates interference or 'crosstalk' between copper wires, and bonding that makes it possible to take individual lines and aggregate them."

The demonstration took place in a laboratory and Alcatel-Lucent says: "Further research is being conducted to refine deployment models and determine a specific set of customer premises equipment models compatible with the DSL Phantom Mode technology."

However equipment vendors, and telcos, have long held out the promise of boosting DSL bandwidth by bonding together two or more pairs, using a technique known as dynamic spectrum management.


Telstra CTO Hugh Bradlow, told Telstra's investor briefing in November 2007 that: "In the copper environment, we have ADSL2+ covering 57 percent of Australia's 8.5 million homes, but we're already working on the next two generations of copper based technology, VDSL2 and dynamic spectrum management, both of which will increase the speeds by doubling, so that the copper technology has the potential to get up to 100Mbps."

The Fast Copper research project run jointly by a number of US universities with Federal funding from 2004-2008 claims to have achieved "The introduction of single-wire 250Mbps symmetric DSLs at 500m range using phantom shield circuits."

Two years ago Huawei released a product, the Xpert LAS, that was said to incorporate DSM and was claimed to be "the industry's first hybrid access line assurance solution'¦that typically] improves ADSL2+/ VDSL2 performance by over 30 percent...[and] helps operators to expand their IPTV offerings or other bandwidth-consuming services in the copper bundle."


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