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7 February 2019

Japanese first as Nokia marries in huge KDDI upgrade

Claiming to be the world’s only vendor currently providing interoperable and VDSL technology, Nokia has landed a huge deal at second-placed Japanese mobile network operator KDDI – upgrading MDUs (multi-dwelling units) to speeds of 830 Mbps. At a time when Japan is caught in a fight with Korea and China to be first to 5G, aiming to deliver the next-gen mobile network by the Japan 2020 Summer Olympics, some significant broadband news makes for refreshing reading.

The announcement notes that Japan-specific VDSL2 technology is relied upon by between 5 million and 6 million residents, those who require network upgrades, while over 30 million households receive FTTH/FTTB services, of which approximately 9 million are MDU residents.

But as fiber picks up momentum, the window of opportunity is closing for technologies such as, G.Now and MoCA Access as more buildings opt for fiber direct to the home or apartment. Nokia Bell Labs says its system will minimize the impact to existing VDSL systems, enabling operators like KDDI to carry out upgrades through a simple CPE replacement, with vectoring technology to reduce the cross-talk interference that knocks down data speeds over copper networks.

So, with roughly 5.5 million VDSL2 households, we presume KDDI plans on upgrading its entire footprint using Nokia technologies, although the operator has not confirmed this. KDDI says it has just over 4.4 million FTTH subscribers, adding 116,000 over the past year. Strangely though, KDDI has projected a loss of 74,000 FTTH subscribers for the first quarter of 2019.

Faultline Online Reporter questioned Nokia’s talk of unique interoperability, as we are sure Adtran has a similar technique using bonded vectored VDSL2 lines as backhaul rather than fiber for the last half a mile or so, in locations where services need to coexist with VDSL2 services. A Nokia representative got back to us and it turns out the claim is specific to Japan, assuring us that if we look across the various vendors, Nokia is the only one currently deploying a system in Japan. We are meeting with the Nokia broadband team at Mobile World Congress later this month so will be sure to follow this up.

Speaking of rivals, the KDDI deal comes hot on the heels of Israeli chip maker Sckipio Technologies winning the highly prestigious SK Broadband in November and telling us at the time it was the first commercial deployment of using the full 212 MHz in Asia Pacific. In which case, this week’s announcement from Nokia looks to be the second such instance.

The one exception to the closing window of opportunity mentioned earlier is DOCSIS 3.1, which is triggering US cable 1 Gbps installations, although DOCSIS deployments in Japan are less prevalent, with only Jupiter Telecom talking publicly about a DOCSIS deployment.

Many opportunities are based on quite a slow spend bringing fiber closer to the home, so that it can be delivered a few hundred yards from a distribution point. Because the operator has to find capex to extend fiber in the first place, it makes them consider how much more fiber all the way would cost.

This is interesting as a market update from the Broadband Forum just last week highlighted the growing popularity among operators, reporting that there are now 42 certified-interoperable solutions for the 106 MHz profile. The report highlighted the UK’s BT Openreach, which is deploying FTTP to 3 million UK premises and has pledged to pass around 10 million homes with by 2021 – enabling 330 Mbps services over its current FTTC network. Other operators using cited in the Market Update include Orange, SandyNet, Frontier, Post Luxembourg, Swisscom, Skywire Networks, and Australia’s National Broadband Network (NBN).

While most observers are talking about lots of trials and working out the best deployment models – one instance is crying out for the G.mgfast standard, and that’s running ITU standards across coaxial cable where there is not cross talk to get in the way. This would likely give an approach for the carriage of signals around an MDU a significant lift from the 1 Gbps possible today, to something approaching twice these theoretical twisted pair speeds, and without having to upgrade crosstalk cancellation.  G.mgfast has been rapidly replacing the Nokia-inspired term over the past year.

That seems to us why ASSIA, Broadcom, Huawei, Nokia, Intel and Sckipio are all quiet on the broadband front right now, working out how to arrive at working coaxial cable G.mgfast systems to power MDU rapid broadband deployments in the US, Australia, Japan and Korea.