DSL, Now Offering Speeds of 700 Mbps

Huawei, the telecom gear maker, today said it has achieved speeds of 700 Mbps over DSL using a prototype shown in Hong Kong: the fastest DSL we’ve seen. Earlier this year, Alcatel-Lucent (s alu) showed off 300 Mbps over DSL that could travel for 400 meters one kilometer, because with copper, it’s not just speed, but how far an ISP could deliver those speeds. Huawei has managed its top speed for 400 meters as well.

The race for faster copper may fly in the face of my own personal desire for a fiber-to-the-home connection, but is necessary because of both the prevalence of existing copper networks around the world and the cost of upgrading all of those networks to fiber. Verizon (s vz) has spent up to $19 billion transitioning to fiber-to-the-home, but it too has halted further expansion to wait for customer demand to keep up. Contrast that with AT&T (s T) strategy of upgrading its copper networks with fiber-to-the node, (where it brings fiber to the equipment in the neighborhood, then uses the existing copper to connect to the home.) I’ve called it the slow road to fast broadband, but it’s certainly less risky and much, much cheaper.

Given that many ISPs are content to use their copper until customers are ready to rip it out of the ground and dig their own fiber trenches, Huawei’s advances are a boon to it and to the end consumer who may well be using DSL for the next several decades at this rate. To reach the 700 Mbps speeds, Huawei is relying on what it calls SuperMIMO (multiple-input multiple-output) technology that uses four twisted pairs to achieve its downstream speeds. This technology addresses crosstalk among multiple twisted pairs and increases DSL bandwidth by 75 percent, from an average of 100 Mbps per twisted pair to approximately 175 Mbps.

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