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26 November 2015

Deutsche Telekom eyes G.fast as broadband savior

By Charles Hall

Who would ever have thought that Germany’s incumbent and once much revered Deutsche Telekom (DT) would be down to a 41% market share in broadband? Blame it on the cablecos and their DOCSIS broadband technology. The question is what the copperwire-bound DT can do? It is currently upgrading its copper wire broadband network with vectoring technology, but that will not allow it to catch up with what cablecos currently offer – upwards of 400 Mbps, much less what cablecos will soon offer when they next upgrade their hybrid fiber/coax networks.

DT appears to be eyeing as an answer the copperwire-based broadband technology G.fast, which BT is already well on its way to not only deploying but also promoting as copperwire-based telcos last great hope – short of building all-fiber networks. DT appears to think that G.fast, when bonded over two pairs of copper wires, will offer speeds that are twice what BT has been talking about.

During DT’s recent third-quarter earnings call, its CEO Timotheus Höttges said that G.fast bonding, which Sckipio showed at the recent Broadband World Forum, would substantially increase G.fast’s currently available speed.

Sckipio’s G.fast chips are in the Adtran gear that BT is testing. Sckipio’s VP of marketing Michael Weissman said that bonding two pairs of copper wires gives G.fast up to 2 Gbps at the top end and 1 Gbps at 300 meters,” which he called a fantastic number.

Höttges said, “G.fast is an opportunity to provide up to 500 Mbps and if you go to bonding you could double up that speed,” according to a Seeking Alpha transcript.

DT has not publicly committed to deploying G.fast and it is unclear how many residences it currently connects with the two pairs of copper phone wires that are needed for bonding. It’s also not clear how much closer to the residence DT will have to install fiber for 1 Gbps G.fast than the 300 meters it has been doing for VDSL2 vectoring. That is the distance that BT plans to use for deploying G.fast from its neighborhood cabinets to the residence, but BT is talking at speeds much less than 1 Gbps at that distance.

DT plans next to deploy super vectoring but that provides speeds only up to 250 Mbps, far less than what the cablecos plan to offer.

What is certain is that German cablecos are taking highly profitable broadband market share from DT and that its current copperwire broadband cannot reverse or even slow the cablecos’ march on the crippled giant.

DT has another problem: coverage. At the end of 2014 its hybrid fiber/copper wire VDSL network only reached about 18 million of the residences in Germany. Of those, vectoring was only available to about 2.5 million residences. Its goal is to have about 6 million connected to vectoring by year-end.

BT appears to be much more advanced in its G.fast efforts than DT. Even so, BT said G.fast will only be to about 37% of UK homes in five years.

It does not appear that DT has G.fast on a fast track. A DT spokesperson told Light Reading, “G.fast could play a role in Germany… [but] we will start with super-vectoring.”

Cablecos are well-down the 1 Gbps path and have their plans and broadband technology firmly in place. That is why DT and other telcos are anxiously watching BT’s test results. 1 Gbps is a dream number for the copperwire telcos that the cablecos have been and will continue to cause nightmares until telcos match their speeds.