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BT eyes up Swansea for 500Mbps G.fast broadband trial

BT is planning to test out 500Mbps services in Swansea, using the emerging G.fast technology. 

The Welsh city will become the third place BT is testing out the new tech in the wild, following lab tests which have delivered download speeds of around 700Mbps. 

G.fast trials have previously been given the go-ahead in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire and the Newcastle suburb of Gosforth. While these trials will reach around 2,000 homes and businesses, the Swansea trial is thought to be on a smaller scale. 

G.fast works in a similar way to regular FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) connections, in that it’s not a complete fibre optic connection from the BT exchange to the customer’s premises. The so-called last mile of a G.fast line is copper. 

Inside BT’s secret G.fast labThe main advantage of G.fast is that its capable of delivering much more bandwidth than BT’s FTTC connections currently can – but only over short distances. For this reason, engineers would need to install a distribution point or remote note on the side of a telegraph pole or a street cabinet. 

Over copper loops 66 metres long, BT’s lab tests have delivered download speeds of 696Mbps and upload speeds of 200Mbps. Shorter 19 metre loops delivered more bandwidth. The G.fast live trials are all about replicating these results in a variety of locations. 

Speaking at the UK Network Operators Forum in Manchester, Neil McRae, BT’s chief network architect said: “[G.fast] will initially provide hundreds of megabits, rising up to 500Mbps within ten years.

“We are aggressively pursuing further industry standards to improve the rate vs reach of G.fast and enable new kit to be developed.”

Regardless of how BT plans to monetise and deploy the technology once it’s ready, the results of the summer trials should indicate, with some degree of accuracy, exactly what G.fast has to offer the average UK user, although McRae added that BT is aggressively pushing to further industry standards and improve the reach of G.fast. 

The prototype XG-FAST technology is described as an extension of the G.fast tech can reportedly deliver 10Gbps over a 30 metre copper last mile, although as the fibre gets closer to homes and businesses, you have to wonder how long it will be before BT and others simply switch out the last mile altogether and install a pure FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) line. 

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