According to AT&T, the introduction of the mainstream 25G is likely in 2024

15. 06. 2022 Wednesday / By: Robert Denes / Industrial / Exact time: BST / Print this page

AT&T has achieved symmetric speeds of 20 Gbps in its manufacturing network while testing Nokia's 25G technology. Eddy Barker, AT&T AVP for Mobility and Access Architecture, told Fierce that the test sheds light on the future viability of the fiber network he is deploying, and that this is the latest step toward likely commercial deployment of the technology in the 2024 timeframe.

The operator has been working on 25G for some time. He signed the 25GS-PON Multi-Source Agreement (MSA) in March 2021, and Barker said he has been tricking with the technology in his lab for “some time”. He said AT&T tested the full 25 Gbps downstream speed allowed by the technology late last year, but noted that the uplink speed was still asymmetric, 10 Gbps.

Now that the ecosystem has become a little more mature, AT&T has decided to test the field and experiment with the fiber-optic infrastructure it currently uses to provide commercial 2 and 5 GB services. Barker said the latest trial version used existing optical line terminals (OLTs) in its network since 2020, as well as the same Quillion chipset found in the Nokia XGS-PON solution. He mixed new photonics to allow for the symmetric abilities he was looking for.

“We used the same optical fiber and then actually set up 25GB of symmetry in some workplaces and tested it for about 20 gigabits per second,” he said. "We actually combined this with our FiberWise technology on the same thread, which is actually wave division multiplexing."

According to Barker, a key element of the test is that AT&T is well positioned to upgrade its existing fiber infrastructure at minimal cost. He said in-network electronics typically account for 20-25% of installation costs per home, and much of the spending goes to the fiber and the ground itself. The latter does not need to be repeated to access 25G.

“Our fiber-optic investment, which we are targeting at 30 million [locations] by 2025, is indeed very strategic,” he said. “This fiber-optic infrastructure really has a huge potential lifespan. We show that as traffic increases, we can really increase that, as our services require more bandwidth, which we can sell, and we can do that at a very nominal rate.”

As for the commercial introduction, Barker said that while OLTs and photonics are ready, the ecosystem is still waiting to emerge with the gateway ONTs. This is likely to happen at the end of this year or early 2023. For the remainder of 2023, it expects more vendors besides Nokia to announce 25G capabilities. Barker concluded that the early introduction of 25G could take place in 2023, but it is more likely that a steady flow of commercial deployments will not occur until 2024.

AT&T is far from the only provider to run on 25G. The Belgian service provider Proximus announced in May 2021 that it had installed the technology for the first time in the world, and Hotwire Communications in Florida claimed in December 2021 that it would be the first to introduce 25G in the United States. Frontier Communications in the U.S., Bell Canada and BT in the UK are also testing the technology.

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