Two new technologies – G.fast and Cat8 – are improving copper cable options. This opens up new opportunities for telcos that have large amounts of legacy copper infrastructure, which currently cannot handle the speed and bandwidth that can be delivered by fiber.
Upgrading their existing copper is not only much cheaper than replacing with fiber, the increased speed will actually encourage the deployment of fiber networks.
The latest standard for twisted pair copper cabling is here and it may be a game-changer. Now undergoing testing and certification, it’s expected to be available later this year.
The most exciting aspect of this technology is that the bottleneck created when fiber is brought to premises with copper cabling, will vanish. This will be a boon for fiber to the home (FTTH) installations. Many locations are difficult and expensive to reach with fiber but G.fast will deliver similar speeds over the last short distance of existing copper.
G.fast is a high-speed transmission technology for digital subscriber line (DSL) and expands on the current VDSL2 standard. Increasing the frequency spectrum from 30 MHz to 106 MHz, with a probable future increase to 212 MHz will enable gigabit speeds over loop lengths of up to 250 meters.
The technology will work in conjunction with fiber to the distribution point (FTTdp) – where an outside node is located within 250 meters of the premises. These will be the transition points between fiber and copper and would need specialized panels and transfer terminals located in a manhole, pole or cabinet or even as close as the building entrance.
G.fast will also save telcos money by using reverse power feed (RPF). This method is when the subscriber supplies the power to the distribution points instead of the telco and reduces overall cost to the service provider.
Category 8 Cabling
The other new technology on the near horizon for BASE-T twisted pair copper is Cat8. This standard is still being defined and there are a number of competing solutions in the U.S. and Europe.
The intention would be to make Cat8 cabling very similar to shielded Cat6a or Cat7a cables with the same overall diameter and conductor size. Speed would be 40 GB per second with a bandwidth of 2 GHz – four times today’s maximum of 500 MHz.
The most likely locations for large-scale installation of the new standard are data centers. There is solid support for the new standard to retain the RJ45 connector footprint, which would enable closely spaced connections and be less expensive that other options.
Lower cost will be a main feature of the new standard and as prices drop expect to see Cat8 become the new standard for multimedia infrastructure to handle demand for UHD (4K video) streaming. Along with all the current data types each Cat8 cable will be able to carry up to four services.
It’s still too early to know the exact specifications of the new standard, but, as in previous cycles, early adopters are using expensive coax copper or fiber solutions for very high speed interconnects. Ultimately the new standard will become the mainstream solution and come in at much less cost.