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Amsterdam: where the streets are paved with copper

Let me look back at an intense but rewarding few days in Amsterdam at Broadband World Forum 2013. At times, visitors to Alcatel-Lucent’s booth were packed in more tightly than copper pairs in a binder. And the crosstalk was just as loud.

Which is kind of appropriate as the majority of the buzz at the show this year was about copper: a 160 year old technology that just keeps on giving.

From our own VDSL2 vectoring micro-nodes launch to standing-room only at the G.Fast content hub, the interest in the latest copper technologies was extremely high. Even our competitors were announcing trials and tests of G.fast and VDSL2 vectoring solutions. Oh, and a copper innovation (Alcatel-Lucent’s Zero Touch Vectoring) won Infovision’s “Best Broadband Access Award: Fixed”. Copper really seemed to outshine fiber this year.

Is that a sign of the economic times? Partly. Service providers certainly have to prioritize their investments, and if they can meet customer demand for ultra-broadband using existing infrastructure, that makes a lot of sense. Even with new fiber deployments, services providers need to be as cost conscious as possible; hence the strong interest at BBWF in our Motive Network Analyzer which allows service providers to validate and troubleshoot fiber connections during installation or operation, or our EPON solution for cable operators, announced just ahead of BBWF, which gives MSOs a cost-effective way of bringing fiber into their networks.

But it’s about more than money. Over the last year we’ve see the lines blur considerably between copper and fiber. It used to be that our customers were firmly in either a fiber-to-the-home or a VDSL mindset. Now our fiber customers are looking at copper again, and our copper customers are looking at bringing fiber closer to their subscribers – all with one objective in mind: to connect more people, more quickly. And of course the end-user doesn’t care what technology they have. They just want fast internet access, now.

For me, it’s all about options; a mix of technologies that work seamlessly together and from which service providers choose whatever is the most suitable for each deployment. Urban new builds will get fiber-to-the-home. A historic street in an old town will get fiber-to-the-distribution point, using VDSL2 micro-nodes today and G.Fast tomorrow.

That’s why I think copper was so high on the agenda at BBWF. Recent breakthroughs in G.Fast and vectoring have put it back in the mix as a viable broadband access technology for years to come. Fiber-to-the-home is still the future, but there are many paths to get there. And some of them are paved with copper.

But that’s my opinion. Have a look at what Sophie thinks:

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