ADTRAN integrated second-generation Gfast products into its software-defined access line card, giving service providers a new path to gigabit-capable residential speeds.
The SD-Access portfolio now includes Gfast solutions that conform with Amendment 3 of the ITU-T Gfast standard. This standard doubles the usable spectrum to 212 MHz from 106 MHz and can deliver an aggregate bandwidth of 2 Gbp/s. Because it can coexist with VDSL2 services and maintain the ability to deliver symmetric gigabit speeds, second-gen Gfast gives providers additional deployment flexibility. The latest Gfast standard also gives it the ability to support dynamic time assignment (DTA), wrote Heavy Reading's Analyst at Large, Simon Stanley, in 2018 report "Gfast Rollout Starts with Amendment 3."
"Next-gen Gfast is a positive addition to a vendor's portfolio of products. It capitalizes on the previous generation of Gfast to allow higher throughput and introduces the use of coax as a medium for delivery," said Jaimie Lenderman, senior analyst at Ovum, in an email to Broadband World News. "In some cases, next-gen Gfast is sufficient as a bandwidth upgrade for copper-based networks. It depends on numerous factors including competition from other operators around bandwidth speeds."
Indeed, in only the first few months of 2018, 33 telcos and ISPs were deploying or planned to Gfast, according to research firm Point Topic. Of those, 14 were trialing Gfast and already had conducted lab tests, with some completing field trials. And 13 were rolling out Gfast within their internal networks with plans to soon launch commercially. The remaining six global providers already offer Gfast services to customers, with download speeds ranging from 300Mbp/s to 500Mbp/s, Point Topic determined. (See Gfast Starts 2018 With a Bang.)
The technology is particularly attractive for operators serving multi-dwelling units (MDUs) and other sites where providers must leverage existing phone (copper) or cable (coax) wiring. These can include historical buildings, offices with suspected asbestos in the walls or medical facilities, where it's too disruptive to lay fiber optic cables and relocate residents, even temporarily.
"Second generation Gfast solutions can allow operators, municipalities and regulatory agencies another delivery path to meeting the goal of delivering gigabit speeds to consumers," said John Kendall, principal analyst for Service Provider Technology at IHS Markit. "The current Gfast market is set for strong growth as leading service providers are ramping deployments as a natural extension of their fiber investment strategies and gigabit service rollout plans."
The global Gfast chipset market is predicted to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 114.61% between 2018 and 2022, according to Technavio.
Driving Gfast demand
In addition to serving MDUs, network operators increasingly rely on Gfast as part of their fiber-to-the-basement (FTTB) or fiber-to-the-distribution-point (FTTdp) strategies to accelerate deployment and reduce costs. This "ranges from single-port to high port count DPUs with a wide variety of powering options, including business case streamlining reverse powering, provides a complete toolset of rapidly deployable fiber extension solutions enabling operators to speed up the rollout of Gigabit services with minimal resident disruption and at a highly economical cost per subscriber," according to ADTRAN.
"In today’s global economy, having access to gigabit services has become playing stakes for any carrier that wants to compete for residential services," ADTRAN Director of Portfolio Management, Broadband Solutions, Werner Heinrich said, in a statement.
ADTRAN's Gigabit to the Basement (GTTB) deployment model gives provides the opportunity to offer customers gigabit speeds without deploying a distribution fiber from the feeding cabinet to the Gfast DPU, the vendor said. That's because the Gfast DPU members of its SD-Access family seamlessly integrate into today's software-defined architectures.
The global smart home market -- which Technavio expects will climb to $152.7 billion in 2021 from $81.4 billion in 2016 -- is one great driver of Gfast. To be smart, these homes need wired or wireless communication infrastructure; often, operators provide fiber-based infrastructure with WiFi, although telcos increasingly are focusing their efforts on this traditionally cable-dominated market with services such as Verizon's recently unveiled 5G Home.
Gfast, zippier and less costly to deploy, gives operators the opportunity to more rapidly connect residential customers to high-speed broadband, meeting subscribers' immediate demand for a connected home at a reasonable price. Fiber deployment, of course, can be more time-consuming based on geography; government red tape; costs associated with physical digging of the trenches -- whether on private or public lands, and the number of other families required to sign on to a green-field opportunity before an operator can begin a project.
"Smart homes require proper wired or wireless communication infrastructure with high Internet speeds to interconnect smart devices within a home. CPE and DPU devices integrated with Gfast technology can provide Internet speeds up to 1 Gbp/s which can facilitate smart home communications. Thus, the growing demand for smart homes will be a key trend driving growth of the G.fast chipset market," according to Technavio. "The use of Gfast technology wherever the deployment of fiber optics is a challenge, will fuel the growth of Gfast chipset market during the forecast period."
Of course, many operators use multiple access technologies depending on total cost of ownership, time to market, deployment costs and available tech.
"Most telco operators have both copper-based and fiber-based networks," said Ovum's Lenderman. "Some will choose to invest in the copper network, but it depends on the cost of the upgrade versus fiber-all-the-way and various external factors such as premise/building owner access," she added.
— Alison Diana, Editor, Broadband World News. Follow us on Twitter or @alisoncdiana.