BT: G.Fast Copper Can Deliver 5G Networks

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BT says copper is capable of carrying cellular data after G.Fast trials, making it cheaper for operators to rollout 4G and 5G

BT says it has conducted the “world’s first” trial of Cloud Radio Access Network (C-RAN) technology over copper in a development it claims could make the deployment of 4G and 5G networks cheaper for mobile operators by eliminating the need to lay additional fibre to base stations.

The C-RAN trial was conducted using G.Fast – a technology that boosts copper speeds to levels similar to fibre. In theory G.Fast is capable of 5Gbps, with BT claiming 500Mbps is realistic for a consumer broadband service.

Researchers at BT’s Adastral Park research and development facility in Suffolk were able to deliver cellular data from a transmitter over copper at speeds of between 150-200Mbps using processor technology from US firm Cavium.

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5G G.Fast trial

BT TowerIf such speeds were achievable in a real world scenario, operators would be able to use copper to connect their base stations to the rest of the network if there is no fibre connection available. This would make it cheaper to upgrade existing sites or build new ones in areas where more capacity is required.

Urban environments or areas with challenging terrain, such as mountains or rivers, can be difficult places to deploy more fibre, which has led to a number of efforts to find alternative ways to boost speed and capacity of mobile networks

A recent trial by Fujitsu and the Tokyo Institute of Technology successfully achieved a world recod 56Gbps wireless transmission speed using millimetre-wave (mmWave) technology, which if commercialised, would mean fewer base stations and less fibre would be needed.

BT is holding trials of G.Fast in Huntingdon, Gosforth and Swansea with the intention of rolling out the technology to ten million homes by 2020 and the majority of the UK within a decade – boosting speeds for consumers without laying more cable.

“Using to deliver a cellular network is an exciting breakthrough for C-RAN and yet another world first for our team of researchers at Adastral Park,” said Tim Whitley, managing director for research and innovation at BT. “These technologies will play a key role in 4G networks and will be fundamental to 5G architectures. The trials are another step towards a fixed and mobile network which will support customers’ increasing demands for data.”

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