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October 31, 2016updated 07 Nov 2016 2:35pm

Can these 4 fibre alternatives provide 300 Mbps ultrafast connectivity?

Fibre is the key candidate for providing ultrafast connectivity, but could these other technologies do the same?

By Alexander Sword

Fibre is considered by the broadband industry and government to be the most crucial technology underpinning our future ultrafast fixed broadband network.

However, fibre is not always practical or affordable to roll out and there are other technologies that could bring the connectivity.

Can these technologies bring the required speeds? Ultrafast is defined by UK regulator Ofcom as speeds of 300Mbps, so it is a tall order from currently available technologies such as LTE or copper broadband. Fibre, for its part, allows effectively unlimited speeds.

CBR looks at the alternative technologies to fibre and the role they could play in bringing ultrafast connectivity in the future.


1. 5G

5G is the next generation of cellular connectivity technology that will follow 4G, which is now widely available in modern day smartphones.

It will have many of the same characteristics, and has advantages such as being able to be beamed out via transmitters to wide areas. To increase the reach of fibre, expensive trenches have to be dug.

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ultrafastSince 5G will provide the backbone for the Internet of Things (IoT), 5G is supposed to provide low latency, so that devices running on it will be able to be constantly connected and be highly energy-efficient, so that devices using it can survive on batteries for a large amount of time without being recharged.

Can it do ultrafast?

The specifications for 5G have not been agreed upon yet, but one of the main expectations is that it will be able to transmit data very quickly.

According to the website, 5G may provide speeds 100 times faster than 4G. This means it could exceed 10Gbps, making it a good candidate for ultrafast connectivity.

Even more impressively, the 5G Innovation Centre has achieved the high speeds of around 1 Tbps.

2. WiGig

WiGig is an upgraded form of wi-fi. It uses a new radio using wi-fi technology. It transmits traffic across a much higher frequency band than wi-fi, allowing it to move considerably more traffic: the 60 GHz range.

wi-fiThis has traditionally been avoided due to a high absorption level of oxygen and water, but WiGig can overcome this issue through beamforming, which focuses a directed signal between devices, eliminating interference in the connection.

WiGig has a lower wavelength due to its higher frequency, meaning that its reach is limited. However, it is cheaper to push out WiGig connectivity than dig fibre ducts.

Can it do ultrafast?

According to the WiFi Alliance, WiGig can transmit data at 8 Gbps.

3. provides faster connectivity through existing copper networks by extending the range of frequencies available.

The advantage of is that it can provide higher speeds without new physical infrastructure needing to be rolled out.

The technology is therefore a strong alternative to fibre in countries which have extensive copper infrastructure, such as the UK.

BT has been rolling out in the UK.

Can it do ultrafast? can deliver speeds of up to 330 Mbps, so it fulfills Ofcom’s definition.

However, Gavin Patterson, CEO of BT, recently made clear at the Broadband World Forum that is a transitional technology.

4. Satellite

Satellite broadband has been notoriously difficult to make profitable. The cost of launching a satellite is huge and failure could happen at any time.

SkyBridge, an Alcatel project, went bankrupt in 2000 while Microsoft-backed Teledesic halted work in 2002.

satelliteSatellite is often seen as expensive, slow and providing poor bandwidth.

It has generally been used to connect areas that cannot be reached through traditional broadband. This includes rural areas and shipping but also airlines.

Satellite comms firm Inmarsat carried out the ‘soft launch’ of its in-flight broadband service GX for Aviation with German carrier Lufthansa in October 2016. GX for Aviation is the world’s first in-flight broadband with global coverage from a single operator.

Can it do ultrafast?

Commercially available satellite connectivity currently offers relatively slow speeds of up to 20Mbps.

However, a joint project between Eutelsat and ViaSat claims to offer speeds of over 100Mbps.

So the answer to whether satellite can provide ultrafast broadband is currently a resounding no, but the technology may become more viable in future.

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