What technology is available for broadband rollout?

An efficient and secure nationwide digital infrastructure forms the basis of a digital society. High-speed networks are the lifeblood of state-of-the-art digital services. Whether it’s Industry 4.0, networked medical services or networked mobility, the success of many future services will depend on fast, reliable networks. But which technology is best able to meet these challenges?

Optical fibre

Optical fibre offers without doubt the best technical specifications to transfer large volumes of data quickly and securely. However, the fibre-optic rollout is also proving to be the most expensive option. Large parts of the German telecommunications network backbone are already fibre-optic, and the DSL service area interfaces are connected to the main distributors in Deutsche Telekom’s DSL network with fibre-optic cables. But for the stretch between the service area interfaces and the customer’s premises (the “last mile”), only three percent of households are serviced by fibre-optic cables. The existing cable networks that were previously made up of exclusively coaxial cables are now largely being upgraded through the installation of fibre-optic cables. According to a study by the certification body TÜV, the nationwide expansion of fibre-optic connections to end customers’ buildings and homes would require an investment between 85 and 93 billion euros. That is not economically viable presently.

VDSL vectoring

Copper cables have the advantage of already being connected all the way to households in many areas. Households and companies in Germany are almost comprehensively connected with copper (telephone) cables. VDSL already enables (depending on the distance between connection and service area interface) bandwidths of up to 50 Mbit/s. Using new vectoring technology and with the deployment of fibre-optic cables up to the DSL service area interface, the performance of copper cables can be doubled to reach download speeds of up to 100 Mbit/s. With super vectoring, the next technological advance is just around the corner. This will facilitate bandwidths of up to 300 Mbit/s.

Cable networks

Cable networks also have an important role to play in providing German households with connections of 50 Mbit/s and more. Cable network operators cover around two-thirds of German households and offer products with connections up to 200 Mbit/s. Connection bandwidths of up to 400 Mbit/s are already achievable in modern cable networks using the DOCSIS 3.0 data transfer standard. At the same time, in the hybrid fibre-coaxial cable networks, fibre optic is being brought ever closer to the end customers in order to meet their data needs. Bandwidths over 1 Gbit/s will be possible in the coming years in the hybrid fibre-coaxial networks (using DOCSIS 3.1, for example).

Mobile broadband/LTE

Mobile communications technology is especially suited to supplying rural areas. Here mobile broadband is already of pivotal importance. Mobile broadband connections are especially appealing, because they save the expensive digging and laying of underground cables, which make up around 80 percent of the costs attached to network rollout. The LTE Advanced standard can currently provide fast broadband with up to 1 Gbit/s at shorter notice and at less cost than terrestrial lines. Including LTE Advanced in an approach that is open to many different technologies could help to reduce rollout costs by 14 billion euros. The expansion of the mobile communication network indirectly serves the expansion of fibre-optic networks in the area: that’s because from a certain point the mobile base stations require a connection to the high-speed fibre-optic networks. Mobile communications technology offers great potential for innovation, and will become increasingly important for industry and consumers in the future – with things such as location-based services, M2M communication and mobile logistics services.