VDSL2 broadband picked to deliver — for a few

Short range and a lack of applications could hinder adoption

Vodafone CEO Russell Stanners’ announcement of a $50 million “Red Network” local loop unbundling investment this month brought super-fast VDSL2 out into the broadband limelight, but other providers are still taking a wait-and-see approach to the technology.

Vodafone is moving quickly to unbundle Telecom’s exchanges, progressively installing Huawei super IPs DSLAMs as Telecom opens its network. The DSLAMs offer multi-card support and triple play and 20% of their ports will be configured to deliver VDSL2, Vodafone says.

However, these VDSL2 ports can’t be used until the Commerce Commission agrees a management interference plan. This agreement is expected at the end of June, Vodafone says.

VDSL2 will offer speeds of around 50Mbit/s down and 20Mbit/s up within 300m of an exchange, though, as with all copper-based technologies, those speeds diminish quickly as the distance from the exchange increases.

In contrast to Vodafone’s bullish moves, other broadband providers are not yet committing to a VDSL2 rollout.

In May, Telecom said it was is testing VDSL2 gear from Alcatel Lucent in its labs, while Kordia subsidiary Orcon is also studying the technology.

Telecom Wholesale product manager Paul Hayes says Telecom is in the process of providing its input to the Commerce Commission on VDSL2, which he says will benefit those on short local loops.

“We need to be clear when it benefits and when it doesn’t,” he says. “There is still a lot of benefit in ADSL2+ which is now in 115 exchanges across the country.”

Hayes says that means 380,000 customers are now on ADSL2+ capable exchanges. He says Telecom’s investment is benefiting both Vodafone and Orcon customers.

Orcon’s group product manager, Duncan Blair, says VDSL2 is exciting, but Orcon doesn’t want to jump the gun and roll out a service that doesn’t sell.

Blair says VDSL2 could provide an alternative for business users who are currently locked in and paying thousands for fixed high-speed network connections. However, its performance drops off to ADSL2+ speeds beyond 1.5km from an exchange.

“There’s no advantage over ADSL2+ at that range,” he says. That said, many businesses tend to be situated in exchange areas.

Blair says Orcon has been testing VDSL2 and pushing to get it on the agenda at industry forums, but is also focused on “what it can do today”.

He says Orcon is eagerly awaiting the Commerce Commission’s determinations on VDSL2.

Ralph Chivers, CEO of the Telecommunications Carriers’ Forum, which represents telco service providers, says VDSL2 will make a difference if it allows new services and applications to be provided. He says the strongest proponents of VDSL2 tend to be IPTV and video providers.

Chivers also notes the sharp drop-off in performance as a key barrier to VDSL2 locally.

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