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Bell Labs' XG-FAST boasts 10 Gbps speeds; Peering hurts IP transit

In telecom news this week, Alcatel-Lucent's Bell Labs division is boasting a 10 Gbps broadband-over-copper speed record, and a TeleGeography report on peering agreements spells bad news for IP transit providers.

This week in telecom news, Alcatel-Lucent's Bell Labs division announced a 10 Gbps broadband-over-copper speed record with its new XG-FAST technology. This new technology could be a breakthrough for broadband providers to gain fiber speeds using existing copper infrastructure. Meanwhile, a report from TeleGeography shows more content providers and Internet service providers are choosing peering agreements over IP transit services for network traffic.

In other news: Google has begun installing Google Fiber in Austin, Texas, and plans to hook up customers late this year, and Netflix and Verizon are still arguing over which company is responsible for Netflix customers' experiencing network congestion. Read on for all you need to know in telecom news.

Bell Labs' XG-FAST pushes copper-wire DSL Internet speed limits

First came, the copper-line extender currently going through standard ratification at the International Telecommunication Union to deliver 200 Mbps to 500 Mbps broadband over short loops. Now to push the bounds of traditional copper lines even farther, Alcatel-Lucent (ALU)said last week that its Bell Labs division is claiming a 10 Gbps broadband-over-copper speed record using the technology it calls XG-FAST. Alcatel-Lucent said the technology can also be used to deliver 1 Gbps symmetrical broadband access services, which is a major breakthrough for copper broadband.

According to Total Telecom, Bell Labs achieved 10 Gbps symmetrical speeds over 70 meters on a single copper pair provided by an unnamed European operator. In real-world deployments, other factors affect speed, including the quality and thickness of the copper wire and cross-talk between adjacent cables. Due to attenuation, the speed of XG-FAST dropped after 70 meters.

The test demonstrated how operators could deliver gigabit broadband services without deploying fiber all the way to the home by using their existing networks. ALU said the technology could enable carriers to provide Internet speeds indistinguishable from fiber-to-the-home services where it isn't possible to lay new fiber cable to the residence or business.

Peering agreements: Bad news for transit providers

More broadband networks are connecting directly to each other through peering agreements, leading to a decline in IP transit revenues, according to a report from TeleGeography.

The share of global Internet traffic connected through transit agreements, where a content provider pays a transit provider like Level 3 to transport its traffic to an Internet service provider (ISP), fell from 47% in 2010 to 41% in 2014. TeleGeography estimated that IP transit revenues will decline from $4.6 billion in 2013 to $4.1 billion 2020.

Providers are moving away from transit agreements because peering agreements lower the cost of bandwidth and IP services. Peering allows networks to exchange traffic directly rather than going through a middleman provider. Most peering agreements are unpaid, according to Gigaom.

As peering agreements grow in popularity, the demand for paid transit provider services decreases. Many transit providers are now branching out into areas like content delivery network (CDN) services and data center colocation. However, Tim Stronge, vice president of research at TeleGeography, warned that there are hidden costs to peering agreements -- even when they are unpaid.

"When the fixed costs of purchasing a circuit to a peering point and paying for ports, [and of] colocation and various equipment are taken into consideration, operators may find that for low traffic volumes, it is cheaper to simply purchase transit. Similarly, as the price of transit falls, some companies may find it's cheaper to forego peering in favor of buying transit," he said.

Google Fiber build begins, but will Austin come?

Google has broken ground in bringing Google Fiber to Austin, Texas, albeit behind schedule. Google first announced the Austin-based build out of its 1 Gbps fiber service last April, and estimated residents would be connected by mid-2014.

"Construction is underway, and we plan to open sign-ups and start hooking up our first Austin customers later this year," Google spokeswoman Jenna Wandres told Multichannel News.

Google hasn't publicly announced which areas of Austin will be the first to receive the service, but the Austin-American Statesman reported that the majority of Google's city-issued permits to install cable conduits were for locations in south and east Austin.

Google also hasn't announced when it will begin the sign-up process for residents. Google has used past sign ups in Kansas City and Provo, Utah to determine which areas have the most demand and will receive services first.

In addition to its build out in Austin, Google Fiber is currently available in Kansas City and Provo. Google is in fiber discussions with more than 30 cities, including Charlotte, North Carolina and San Jose, California.

Netflix and Verizon continue squabble over network congestion

Netflix and Verizon are still playing the blame game over Netflix customers experiencing slow connections. Verizon threatened legal action last month after Netflix displayed network congestion error messages that blamed customers' ISPs for poor connections. Netflix agreed to stop the messages.

In a blog post, Verizon said it reviewed its data traffic and confirmed there was no congestion on its network, but there was congestion on the interconnection points between Verizon and Netflix. Pointing the blame back at Netflix, Verizon said the interconnection points are chosen by Netflix to deliver traffic onto the provider's network.

Netflix fought back, saying in a statement that the interconnection points are controlled by the ISP.

"When Verizon fails to upgrade those interconnections, consumers get a lousy experience, despite paying for more than enough bandwidth to enjoy high-quality Netflix video," Netflix spokeswoman Anne Marie Squeo told Engadget.

Verizon said it is working with Netflix to improve customer experience.

"We fully understand that many of our customers want a great streaming experience with Netflix, and we want that too," Verizon said in its blog post. "Therefore, we are working aggressively with Netflix to establish new, direct connections from Netflix to Verizon's network."

Verizon clarified these new connections will not prioritize Netflix traffic; rather, the connections will prevent the need for Netflix to use "middleman networks" to get on Verizon's network.

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