G.fast ultrafast broadband test lab opens in Swansea

BT kicks off trials of G.fast broadband technology in Swansea and opens a new test lab for startups

BT has opened a G.fast test lab at its Swansea office to test out ultrafast broadband technology, with the help of local residents and businesses.

G.fast is a digital subscriber line (DSL) standard for short local loops, which has been billed as the next stepping-stone between fibre-to-the-cabinet and fibre-to-the-home.

Although still in its infancy, the standard promises to deliver speeds of between 150Mbps and 1Gbps, and has already performed faster under laboratory conditions.

BT committed to G.fast as the next stage of its national commercial broadband plan at the start of 2015, saying it wanted to provide 500Mbps broadband to the majority of the UK population by 2025.

It announced its Swansea trial at the Swansea Bay City Region Innovation Summit, which took place on 20 May.

Alcatel-Lucent will supply the technology for the Swansea trial, which will focus on how G.fast can be used to serve blocks of flats and business premises, which are often harder to reach than single-occupancy homes.

The trial will also look at the economic impact of deploying higher-speed wireline services on small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

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Around 100 properties in the city will be connected to the service, based on a number of technical criteria.

Startup hub

BT will also set up a test lab space in its Swansea offices, enabling academic researchers, startups and communications providers to test out technologies that could take advantage of G.fast speeds.

Additionally, it will align with a new Computational Foundry at the University of Swansea to incubate Welsh startups, according to Terry Matthews, chair of the Swansea Bay City Region Board.

“The combination creates a platform for the emergence of a high-tech ecosystem in the region, one sure to spawn a range of innovative startup companies, technologies, products and services,” said Matthews.

“Wales has a strong record of innovation and a thriving technology sector, so it is appropriate Swansea has been selected for this trial of the next generation of broadband,” said Edwina Hart, Welsh Government economy minister. 

“Amongst a range of other initiatives we have put in place to support growth in the digital economy, we are working with BT to roll out superfast broadband to homes and businesses across Wales.

“Ultrafast broadband could eventually deliver even more benefits to drive economic growth and create jobs,” said Hart.

Other pilot tests in the UK are planned for Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire, and Gosforth in Newcastle.

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