There is still much debate in the fixed broadband market about the connection speeds customers really need. Or, more specifically, whether there really is demand for 1-Gbps services.
One industry executive believes he has the answer though.
1 Gbps? "It's really about marketing," said Donny Janssens, director of fixed network solutions, Asia Pacific, at Alcatel-Lucent.
Operators that have launched 1-Gbps services want "to be seen as a leader," he said, referring in particular to operators in the Asia-Pacific. Hong Kong Broadband offers 1-Gbps broadband, for example, while in Japan there are 2-Gbps services available.
"Whenever 10 Gigs becomes available people will start using it," because of the power of marketing, Janssens said.
With technological advancements, such as improved codecs that can reduce the amount of bandwidth needed for video, "100 Mbps is really the target for most operators," he insisted.
To achieve those kinds of speeds, operators can supplement their fibre rollouts with copper extension technologies such as vectoring and G.fast. However, the vectoring market is still virtually non-existent in Asia.
"Europe is 90% of the vectoring market today," Janssens said. "Doing fibre in Europe is absolutely prohibitive," from a cost point of view, he explained. And with the European Commission's Digital Agenda targets calling for 30-Mbps broadband services to all citizens by 2020, vectoring "is the only saviour of the operators."
However, in the Asia-Pacific "people are very afraid" of failing to compete with Gigabit services, so they are more willing to plough investment into fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) that they don't really need, Janssens said.
There are technological challenges too.
Vectoring can give speeds of up to 100 Mbps over copper at a distance of around 400 metres. But in Asia loop lengths tend to be significantly longer than that.
"You have to get closer to the customer," Janssens advised.
That means deploying fibre to more unusual places, such as fibre-to-the-wall or fibre-to-the-manhole, thereby creating a shorter last mile on which to activate vectoring.
"Re-engineer the network to get closer to the customer," Janssens said.
Another challenge is power supply, although this can be overcome by exploring remote and reverse power techniques, such as using the power supply from the central office or from the customer premise equipment (CPE) to power the vectoring kit.
CPE is also an issue though. As it stands, vectoring-capable CPE is not widely available. And on a related note, operators would need to bring down the cost of the CPE to make vectoring viable.