This week, NBN Co put its first G.fast capable FTTC units in the ground; technology that promises to deliver over 1Gbps even over ageing copper networks. So what exactly is this G.fast thing, how does it work, and most importantly: how soon can we get our hands on it.
The first G.fast-capable distribution point units - the piece that is installed at the curb in fibre to the curb (FTTC) installations - are being rolled out in Rockdale this week, with more to come later. The new units by Nokia and Adtran are dual function, meaning they can either operate in VDSL2 or G.fast modes, depending on remote activation from NBN.
The technology was first announced last year, and was finally a bit of hope that even the NBN's copper-reliant multi-technology network could one day be capable of delivering modern speeds.
It's been an interesting week with the NBN. From the PM giving them a pummelling, to demonstrating a fast FttC connection, the infrastructure company has managed to grab a few headlines. And today, they're announcing a new service that's dubbed g.fast that promises gigabit speeds over copper.
How Does It Work
G.fast operates differently to the existing technology by using a higher spectrum frequency - 212MHz, compared to VDSL2 on 17MHz. From the original NBN post outlining the new tech:
By using a higher spectrum frequency of 212MHz, G.fast technology allows speeds of up to 1Gbps to be delivered on twisted-pair copper lines of up to 100 metres and can even deliver speeds of around 400Mbps on around 300 metres of copper, with further speed boosts likely as the technology is further developed.
So basically, it's a nice little speed boost to get past that annoying little copper bottleneck that comes with FTTC installments.
G.fast isn't exclusive to the NBN, and a handful of international trials ahead of Australia's should provide good data and advanced in technology to keep our own network relatively up to date.
In testing conditions, NBN has acheived speeds of up to 600Mbps over G.fast (though they haven't released upload speeds for the test) over 100 meters of 20 year old copper in Melbourne. A similar trial in the UK is delivering speeds of 330Mbps. It's no fibre, but it's better than what we currently have.
Who's Getting It
G.fast is only being rolled out on the FTTC or FTTB (fibre to the building) networks at the current time. You can check what technology your installation will involve at NBN's address check tool here.
When Will It Be Available?
Unfortunately even homes in Rockdale where this tech is currently being installed will have to wait for an ETA on their internet speed boost. Currently there are no plans to activate G.fast capability, though the tech is being rolled out.
"We have no immediate plans to launch G.fast-driven ultra-fast services into the marketplace: these trial DPUs will continue to operate in VDSL2 mode for the immediate future," the NBN blog post said, bad news for anyone who wanted to get their hands on G.fast straight away. It's been described as a 'future-proofing' step, with the NBN reiterating that current residential needs are being met by existing speed tiers.
However it may not be forever away - it should be enabled sometime in the next year or two, at least. Then-NBN CEO Bill Morrow said back in August that "the vast majority of the 1.5m premises on the FTTC network [will] be G.fast enabled by 2020.” It may be a while away, but it's better than nothing.