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Fibre? Schmibre: BT trials G.fast tech as future 5G mobile backhaul

BT is exploring how G.fast broadband technology can be used as a cheaper alternative to fibre optic mobile backhaul. 

The UK’s biggest telco and mobile network says it’s also used its G.fast tech to enable something called C-RAN – short for Cloud Radio Access Network – which is in itself an evolution of how mobile network providers currently reach their customers with lots of mobile towers. 

It’s too early to say exactly how this technology will benefit consumers, but BT is hopeful that by saving cash-strapped network operators money, it’ll see 4G and eventually 5G services reach data-hungry customers a lot sooner. 
 
Dr. Tim Whitley, managing director for research and innovation at BT said: “Using G.fast 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. 

“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.”

We’re not currently expecting to see 5G services launch in the UK until early 2022 at the latest, although if the European Commission’s recent proposals are accepted, that launch date could jump forwards to mid-2020. 

It’s expected that BT will have launched G.fast home broadband services, which are currently being tested out in a number of locations across the UK, by 2017. In lab conditions G.fast has delivered download speeds of around 700Mbps but maximum download speeds of 500Mbps are expected in the wild. 

G.fast is something of a halfway house between FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) and FTTP (Fibre to the Premises). 

BT wants to be able to save itself the expense and inconvenience of digging full fibre optic connections to every customers’s premises by using G.fast, which would use the existing copper ‘last mile’ of an FTTC line to deliver ultrafast services. As a result of both BT’s own network upgrades and the public-private BDUK partnerships, superfast broadband from Openreach, BT’s access network, is available in nearly 90 per cent of UK addresses. 

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