Software unbundling could add 100 megabits to typical speeds in England. BT has just committed to 10M lines of G.fast in the next four years and "most of the country" soon after that. They are talking speeds of "up to 330 megabits" rather than the 500-800 now proven for G.fast from the local distribution point. Instead, they will put the DSLAMs in existing cabinets and save.
Cioffi, who invented vectored DSL, believes using software unbundling would allow 100 megabits faster speed. Alternatively, you can extend the reach at a given speed. Traditional unbundling shares the physical lines in the bundle. Today's technology - vectoring and G.fast - provides much higher speeds but is very sensitive to other signals in the same bundle. The incumbents are saying hardware unbundling is now undesirable. They prefer to control everything and sell bitstream access.
ASSIA's multitenant software allows multiple companies to manage the parameters for each customer and troubleshoot many problems, The carrier would manage the physical network including the vectoring noise cancellation. Each company would have a management console and could support their own customers directly.
BT's current plan is to run G.fast in frequencies from 22 MHz to 106 MHz. That leaves 0-17 MHz for other companies running older VDSL on unbundled loops. If the companies could agree that all would use the BT G.fast local loop, British homes would get 100 megabits more speed. BT would be able to use frequencies 2 MHz to 106 MHz rather than 22 to 106 MHz
Each carrier would receive the bits at the local exchange and use the backhaul and Internet peering they already have in place. They could continue using their existing unbundled lines unless and until BT deploys G.fast and they could then software unbundle on BT’s upgraded system. That's an important consideration during the decade long network upgrade.
The technology to use the additional frequencies is clearly established and is built into the standard. Everyone would win except the cable company.
Customers getting much higher speeds will be better served. Both BT and competitors will be better placed in the battle against cable and win market share. BT would benefit the most. The extended reach would mean they can deliver high speeds to more customers without extending fiber. More customers on the new G.fast network would increase the return on investment.
The politics and negotiations will be challenging. The pie would be bigger but I'm sure BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Vodafone and the others would have to reach an agreement on the price before the regulator would approve. Neither regulators nor giant companies are good at rapid change. It would require enormous good faith from companies otherwise in a fierce battle for customers.
I hope OFCOM's new CEO Sharon White, who has shown strength and independence, doesn't need the wisdom of Solomon to make this so.
Huge conflict of interest statement. I am on ASSIA's Advisory Board and in the past have done paid work for them in the low five figures. I have discussed the technology with John, who will present at the Upperside G.fast Summit I'm chairing in Paris next week. Readers will have to judge whether I've been sufficiently objective.
The technology and idea are Cioffi's; everything else, including the analysis, is mine.