Bell Labs breaks broadband Internet speed record

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There’s a new standard for broadband (DSL) called G.fast, that can reach speeds of up to 1 Gigabits of data per second (Gbps). In comparison, typical broadband to the home now typically offers something like 10 Mbps, a factor of 100 slower. How fast is 1 Gbps? Well, if you consider a hi-res HD movies that uses about 5 GigaBytes of disk space, then it would take 40 seconds to download an entire HD movie (1 Gbps = 125 MegaBytes/ second).

But now Bell Labs has managed to reach 10 Gbps using G.fast technology.

Bell Labs achieves 10 Gbps over copper wires

The speed rapidly drops however when the copper wires extend more than 100 metres. However that’s sufficient to get the service from a nearby street cabinet but not much further than that. Perhaps it’s the end of the line for such technology?

Perhaps not, as Bell Labs‘ engineers said that the Internet companies have other ideas – it’s difficult to run fibre optic through every town and building, but there’s definitely an opportunity for high-speed services over copper wires – the kind that are basically everywhere. So, Bell Labs has joined with other companies working on a new technology that can reach 10 Gbps over copper wires.

This new tech is limited to around 50 metres before the drop off in speed is substantial, but that’s certainly enough to handle fibre to the driveway or to the floor of a family home.

Bell’s technology is based on G.fast, which uses 2 pairs of twisted copper wires. This is found in any home that once had 2 phone lines, or in many parts of Europe, a phone line and an ISDN line. By using more frequencies over the two lines, they can achieve 1 Gbps on both of them. But as the lines are often bundled together, it creates cross-talk between signals, so by using the crosstalk to carry information, the new hardware can boost the total capacity up to 10 Gbps.

Currently, Bell only has a couple of working demo units, which use FPGAs (Field Programmable Gate Arrays) and special signal processing software (MATLAB) to process the signals which are sent through a coil of paired copper wires.

What does it all mean for you and me in terms of Internet speeds? Perhaps in a couple of years, those people without access to fibre optic lines will be able to opt for a broadband connection over their existing copper wires at home, and achieve Internet speeds of several Gbps…

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3 Comments

  1. Ah! ”
    Bell Labs achieves 10 Gbps over copper wires”
    That’s the important point. I’m pretty sure Google Labs achieved 10Gbps or more over optical fiber quite a while ago. It’s moving it over copper that’s the great achievement.

  2. Yes but notice the very limited distance (appx 300 ft). You can’t change
    the laws of physics. 24 guage copper wires are very restrictive for
    high bandwidth. This may work OK if they bring it by fiber to the house then you can use copper wiring inside the home but they will never be able to get it long distances over copper as it is now.

  3. Never say never. I was reading about Gigabit over copper ten years ago and people had thought it was impossible. We have chips made now with components which people were sure were impossible due to quantum effects. We’re probably close to the limit in many ways, but never say never.