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Broadband vectoring is real and it works: Alcatel chief

Date

Ben Grubb

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Amsterdam: Described as "pixie dust" by former communications minister Stephen Conroy, vectoring, a technology that helps make copper broadband networks faster, has been defended by the managing director of telco equipment maker Alcatel-Lucent in Australia.

Vectoring is a variation of VDSL2, currently the most advanced technology for delivering broadband services over the telephone network. It is said to turbocharge broadband on copper networks to enable download speeds of up to 100 megabits-per-second (Mbps) using noise-cancelling technology to minimise interference from wires running in a bundle. Add in G.fast technology, likely to be available in a number of years, and copper could reach download speeds of up to 1.3 gigabits per second at distances of around 70 metres.

If fibre-to-the-node was deployed at distances of 70 metres with VDSL2 vectoring and G.fast, similar download speeds as promised under Labor's NBN could be achieved, said Alcatel-Lucent's Australian managing director Sean O'Halloran.

Already, the Coalition has indicated it is likely to use vectoring to complement its fibre-to-the-node network. Alcatel-Lucent is keen to provide such services to the NBN rollout.

"It's not fairy pixie dust. It works. There's a secret to it. It does work - absolutely it works," Mr O'Halloran said suggesting Senator Conroy made that statement in the early days of the NBN planning, when vectoring hadn't yet been proven viable.

"And there was a trend if you go back three-four years ago, a lot of operators [were] looking at pushing fibre out as far as they could."

That had since changed, he said, with a number of telcos using a mixed bag of technology and moving away from a majority fibre-to-the-premises rollouts. 

"The world has changed, especially here in Europe," Mr O'Halloran told IT Pro last week.

"There's been some financial imperatives and some great research and development in that access technology. So it's changed."

Senator Conroy last made comments about vectoring being 'pixie dust' in May this year.

"Malcolm [Turnbull] can sprinkle pixie dust around and call it vectoring and he can do all that sort of stuff but he cannot guarantee these upload speeds," Senator Conroy told Mr Turnbull during a Google hangout hosted by ZDNet.

VDSL2 vectoring technology promises upload speeds as high as 30Mbps per second. Mr Turnbull had been reluctant to guarantee upload speeds in the past, but has said consumers can expect download and upload speeds to be around a ratio of 4:1 on the Coalition's NBN.

This would mean that a customer who has a download speed of 25Mbps per second would receive an upload speed of around 6Mbps

Mr O'Halloran said Senator Conroy's high commitment to fibre-to-the-premises when emerging vectoring technologies surfaced was at the cost of some flexibility on the NBN.

He welcomed the flexibility introduced by the Coalition's NBN. 

"We think [it] will help get the network out faster and therefore the benefits to Australians quicker," he said.

The writer attended the Broadband World Forum in Amsterdam as a guest of Alcatel-Lucent.

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93 comments

  • Sure, widening the road is cheaper but it's still not a freeway and you will still need a freeway sooner than later. Only short term vision would suggest it's cheaper !!!

    Commenter
    Wake Up
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    October 28, 2013, 11:20AM
    • Are you happy about paying through your nose about five times over for that freeway? O'Halloran has confirmed what many in the industry are already aware of - that advances in xDSL are where the cutting edge is at for access network technology. I've still got a nice piece of fibre from one of my first projects nearly thirty years ago - it was a mature perhaps even old technology even then. Sure fibre is great, love it and it's awesome, but we simply can't afford it on the scale originally proposed (something Conroy himself has acknowledged).

      Commenter
      sun
      Date and time
      October 28, 2013, 1:16PM
    • sun

      Are you advocating putting "cutting edge technology" onto copper that was put in place 50 - 60 - 70 years ago as I am pretty sure that Telstra laid off the majority of its maintenance personnel 2 decades ago?

      For the cost of training staff to clean up and maintain the copper network it would probably be cheaper to just do the fibre instead.

      Commenter
      blindsided breakaway
      Location
      backothepack
      Date and time
      October 28, 2013, 3:15PM
    • @Sun - I'm sure there is nothing wrong with the vectoring technology for the short to medium term, the problem is with the copper. Many people around Australia can't even get decent speeds with ADSL2+ because of the heavily corroded copper.

      If all the copper needs to be replaced, why not just replace it with fibre now and be done with it?

      Commenter
      M
      Date and time
      October 28, 2013, 3:37PM
    • +1

      Commenter
      Token86
      Date and time
      October 28, 2013, 4:12PM
    • This is all good if you are within 70m to the node. But in my case, as withmany others, my copper pair runs 200m to the end of the street. Unless they are going to re-route my line to a new node within 70m of my home this technology will not be comparable to fibre. And if they are going to re-route the copper they may as well run fibre, since they are already paying for the labour.

      Commenter
      Eggbert47
      Date and time
      October 28, 2013, 6:50PM
    • @Sun, Conroy acknowledged the original rollout timetable was "ambitious" he never said it was unaffordable.

      Politician's and companies have all sorts of reasons for exaggerating, misrepresenting and downright lying. So lets stick with what we KNOW. FTTH already handles 1000mbps and has huge upload speeds to boot. Its also certain to get faster over the decades. Vectoring is a "promising" technology. It has a "best case scenario" but best case is exactly that. The tiny telephone cables to your house will probably have to be replaced to get the benefits of vectoring (CTTH - A copper to the home strategy). Even then its already only hopeful of achieving fibre speeds.
      We've figured it out with PCs and Printers, but for some reason TCO (Total cost of ownership) is a concept that escapes most FTTN proponents. Do it once. Pay the bill (5% of our nations tax take over the next 10 years) and then sell it for a massive profit.

      Commenter
      Peter
      Location
      Oz
      Date and time
      October 28, 2013, 8:22PM
    • Peter - it's well known that the underlying reason for the current review on NBN is to achieve a better TCO result. the people I've heard speak at Telstra and NBN have suggested that it's likely FTTP will still be rolled out on a significant basis - wherever the TCO stacks up. there are many areas where FTTN will provide a much better TCO result however over the long term - and it's not hard to see why.

      M - I don't think anyone has suggested replacing copper? you're right that remediation is required in places on the copper network. in some places, some real damage exists but even given that, the repair work is still orders of magnitude cheaper than the huge civil engineering/construction costs associated with FTTP. it's simply not relevant to keep trotting out the good old 'do it once, do it right' line - we're not talking about fixing up the bathroom wall here.

      Commenter
      sun
      Date and time
      October 29, 2013, 11:14AM
  • Alcatel says vectoring works, and is vying for NBN contracts. Well they are hardly going to say that its flawed technology (compared to proven fibre). I'm sorry; Alcatel-Lucent is not a disinterested party. The other issue, over which Alacatel has little knowledge, is the actual state of the copper network upon which vectoring depends. Estimates of inoperable cables range between 15 and 60 per cent of the entire network. Vectoring is like trying to give bionic legs to a dying dog.

    Commenter
    Headshaker
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    October 28, 2013, 11:21AM
    • @ headshaker - None of the infrastructure suppliers are disinterested parties. If you have a range of options on the table from 60billion to 6 billion, which do you think the suppliers are going to tell you is the best.....

      People need to put some thought into what is appropriate for the future, not for last year. Being tied to cables is not the future. Not one of my devices (work or home) has an ethernet port and paying big dollars to have a small wifi signal at home is just not intelligent. I want to be able to use it everywhere, when ever i want. that is the future, not a fibre network.

      Commenter
      Crazytalk
      Date and time
      October 28, 2013, 12:35PM

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