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I was listening to a interview regarding the back country and Fiber to the home with the Swedish professor in telecommunications Per Ödling. Once in the interview he was referring to technologies that was on the way that was "as good as fiber" for Internet connectivity but much cheaper.

I really wished he would continue on that subject because I don't know any technologies that could be "as good". LTE could reach 300Mbit/s under ideal circumstances. You could use the Cable TV net to reach high speeds (don't know how high you can go). But fiber is a whole other league that without problems can go up to 10Gbit and probably even faster in the future. I really don't believe any of the other alternatives has potential even near what fiber can do.

This question is crucial to me because I want to convince a small organization to bet on fiber in it's buildings while the Swedish government is subsidizing this investment.

My question is what technologies could Ödling possibly have spoken about that is on the way and is "as good" as fiber? What alternatives could there be?

Related: Maximum theoretical bandwidth of fibre-optics

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  • I actually did think of adding my update as a comment earlier (and not an answer like I did originally), but was not sure what to do. Following the advice I got i made an edit to my question. – Niclas Nilsson Sep 27 '13 at 9:29
  • Wireless and cable are both shared media, i.e. you won't get the same maximum bandwith per port as with dedicated FTTH. – Martin Schröder Oct 1 '13 at 8:15
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I will try to answer these.

The technology I probably talked about is called "G.fast" and it is being standardized as I write this; most of the G.fast standard was passed last week.

G.fast is a hybrid fiber-copper system, or deep-fiber, that uses copper only for the last hundred meters or so. It will pump from some hundreds to say 2 Gb/s in future versions. Alcatel has announced work on another system that will carry around 10 Gb/s but only over some twenty or so meter of copper. This one is intended as a fiber-drop replacement and probably at first targeting the French market. (Apparently they cannot accept the drilling of holes in their homes, thus reusing copper.) So on the topic of fibre:

  1. if you dig anyway, always put down some fiber too. It costs essentially nothing.
  2. otherwise try to stay technology agnostic and choose something with good price-performance.
  3. in the future fiber will be able to go very far as capacity goes, but this is not so relevant for the domestic market. My guess is that the ability to bring some power (for trickle charging your gadgets) may become a much more important quality than the extra gigabits. But nobody works on this yet.
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  • Thank you so much for answering my question, I'm flattered. I will read up on G.fast. And your position is a little bit more understandable now. But I'm not felling sorry that we installed fiber for 17.500SEK (about $2000) with help of EU/government subsidization in the middle of nowhere here on the Swedish countryside :) – Niclas Nilsson Dec 23 '14 at 9:36
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    Of course you shouldn't be sorry! I am very much in favour of bringing broadband to rural areas. Authorities should be technology agnostic so that their/our money is optimally spent making broadband reach as many as possible; this is my point. Sometimes that would be fibre but most often not. Anyways, I hope that you enjoy the broadband. It will enable many to work from rural areas and, I believe, even have the power to halt urbanization. More people could enjoy beautiful views and fresh air! :-) – Per Ödling Dec 23 '14 at 11:48
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In the U.S., and I assume world-wide, CableLabs is working on the DOCSIS 3.1 standard. This has a theoretical capacity of up to 10 Gbps over existing hardline coax plant. There are a lot of questions to be answered on deployment though, as far as how much the existing cable plant would have to be conditioned to run at QAM 4096. I worked on new plant that had to be re-worked to allow QAM256 to work efficiently, so for DOCSIS 3.1 to work, the plant would have to be insanely clean. There are a lot of questions to be answered but many of the cable companies are banking on it to compete with the coming Google Fiber/ATT onslaught.

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  • Interesting answer! – Niclas Nilsson Sep 29 '13 at 7:44
  • But cable is shared media, while FTTH typically isn't. – Martin Schröder Oct 1 '13 at 8:16
  • Shared for each housing estate? Or what do you mean? – Niclas Nilsson Oct 1 '13 at 14:14
  • Shared for each area the cable plant aggregates to, which is generally a neighborhood or smaller (depending on provider/bandwidth oversubscription). – cpt_fink Dec 23 '14 at 5:54
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Wireless solutions may well be cheaper for low-density deployments (rural, or "back country"), and perhaps under ideal circumstances faster (throughput- rather than latency-wise) than 100 Mbps legacy speeds over access fiber.

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    how is wireless as good as fiber? – This Sep 26 '13 at 14:49
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    +1 Swedish government has a goal that 90% of the population should have 100mbps by year 2020. If you (wrongly) define fiber as 100mbps then wireless technologies have a chance in comparison. It might be what Ödling do, but I would have hoped that he knew about some future technology which I don't :-) – Niclas Nilsson Sep 26 '13 at 18:27
  • wireless is of course no "as good as fiber" as Mike imply. But remember that the question was not necessarily "what is as good as fiber" but what Ödling possibly could be referring to. And unfortunately it's not impossible that Wireless (or cable Internet) is what he was referring to even though it makes me think pretty low about him. – Niclas Nilsson Sep 27 '13 at 9:37
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It's somewhat true, somewhat BS.

Most current FTTH deployments are using gigabit level techology. Many of them are also using PON and are often capped at a lower rate so that no one user can hog the channel and/or to protect revenues from more expensive buisness fiber products. There are products on the horizon (others have linked some) that can potentially achive those kind of datarates over copper phone wiring and/or cable TV wiring.

However

Those techologies have short range. The higher the datarate the shorter the range. Therefore to use them the fiber to copper transition point needs to be moved ever closer to the customer. That means lots of active hardware spread across meany locations in the field. Worse to significantly increase datarates requires replacing that active hardware with another load even closer to the customer.

Meanwhile a dedicated run of single mode fiber can easilly support 10 gigabit and with the right hardware (which is currently prohibitively expensive) can support far more.

On the PON side there is a standard for 10 gigabit PON in development. It would also be possible to re-splice high bandwidth customers from PON to a dedicated fiber.

As for wireless systems the headline bandwidth figures can be high but real world performance is usually much worse.

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