Was TalkTalk speaking out of the side of its mouth in 2016 when it dissed BT Openreach and copper-based technologies' capabilities? That may be one takeaway in light of TalkTalk's announcement today of its new ultra-fast broadband services that use Openreach Gfast to provide services to previously inaccessible customers.
Going back to August 2016, TalkTalk teamed up with fellow underdogs Vodafone and Sky to lobby the British government (successfully as it turned out) to do a better job of separating Openreach and BT. The trio of smaller BT competitors also sneered at the incumbent for using fiber alternatives such as copper- and coax-riding Gfast, rather than an all-fiber, all the time, approach. (See BT & Openreach: Splitsville Ahead?)
As TalkTalk has expanded its footprint, undoubtedly it learned that expanding into multi-dwelling units is costly because it must contend with the small, windy cobblestone streets pervasive across many British villages; historic buildings where structural changes are prohibited; and rural regions, where sheep, deer and cows easily outnumber people for miles.
To serve more Business Wholesale, partner and residential customers, TalkTalk this month began a trial rollout of Gfast, which is expected to deploy in full this summer in line with the debut of Openreach's Gfast launch. The addition of Gfast will provide wholesalers and partners with the ability to offer over-the-top (OTT) services, cloud-based solutions and high-speed connectivity. The Gfast option is part of TalkTalk's broadband portfolio, available to partners via the Partners API or portal, along with ADSL and fiber-to-the-cabinet, according to Retail Technology Review.
"As we continue to champion the drive towards a full-fiber future, which for many is still too far away, Gfast can play an important role in helping customers enjoy the speeds they deserve," said Pete Tomlinson, commercial director at TalkTalk Business, in a statement.
TalkTalk Business is launching an unlimited usage Gfast plan that matches its FTTC program. Participating operators pay a fixed monthly fee, regardless of usage.
For consumers, TalkTalk offers the Faster 150 Fibre (for 150Mbit/s) and Faster 300 Fibre (for 300Mbit/s) Fixed Price Plans, delivering speeds up to 30-times faster than standard broadband, according to the operator's website. Faster 150 has upload speeds of 30Mbit/s, while the 300Mbit/s plan has upload speeds of up to 50Mbit/s, the service provider said.
The operator's move to adopt Gfast underscores the challenges of using one technology to meet all customers' broadband needs, especially at a time when alternatives continue to upgrade and expand their capabilities. The more operators push and adopt Gfast, the more likely it is others will revisit or deploy the technology, said David Baum, CEO of chipmaker Sckipio, in an interview with Broadband World News earlier this year.
"The perception was fiber is more reliable. The cost was enormous. Now we are changing the perception: You can get reliable rates," Baum said. "AT&T can reliably promise rates, which was not necessarily the case in the past. We see with other service providers installing Gfast in the field without doing any remediation. The results are visual and they are being proven in the field."
Fiber-only often is an operator's ultimate goal, but most commonly it is a long-range plan that incorporates multiple technologies along the voyage, Jim McKeon, senior director of product marketing at Broadcom, said in an interview. Service providers, even those most dedicated to deploying only fiber, often realize reusing copper or coax with Gfast, VDSL or other solutions empower them to earn revenue while they await fiber-deployment time, he said. That timeframe differs from provider to provider and place to place, McKeon added. (See Gfast Starts 2018 With a Bang.)
"In Europe, they can see a clear ROI to continue to invest in copper for the clear future. They have a roadmap to deliver broadband services," he said. "What copper can do, what Gfast can do, is enhance your service rate often at a significantly lower rate than fiber. If you can't increase your revenue by deploying fiber, it doesn't make a ton of financial sense. There's a future for the technology. It's not a dead end. It's got a lot to offer. Many people are still sub-100Mbit/s service levels. Getting to 200-megs is a nice objective for a lot of carriers. That's well within Gfast's capabilities today."
With success stories abounding on operator and vendor websites, conference panels and publications, it's readily apparent Gfast's success is not just talk. Or TalkTalk.
— Alison Diana, Editor, Broadband World News. Follow us on Twitter or @alisoncdiana.