A number of different technologies are being developed or improved to offer higher speeds for fixed and mobile broadband networks, as operators are preparing to compete with each other and carry video traffic in 3D and at higher resolutions, which is expected to happen in the coming year.
Broadband speeds have arrived at the point where increasing them is a challenge for most types of fixed and mobile networks as providers move toward offering 3D and other more advanced services. However, there are things that network providers can do, such as merging several links into one connection in both copper and mobile broadband networks.
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But broadband speed isn't just about the connections in the "last mile." Equipment that connects users to a network, for example, mobile base stations, also needs to be able to keep up and not become a bottle neck. And raw capacity isn't the only way to increase speed -- content delivery networks, which push content closer to the user so it can be obtained more quickly, will become more widely used, according to Ericsson.
In addition to those advances, these are four network technologies that are likely to become more important in 2011:
The use of PON (passive optical network) technology in fixed broadband networks has grown in popularity in the last couple of years, thanks to lower costs compared to using an optical fiber for each household. The technology calls for several households to share the same capacity, which is sent over a single optical fiber.
Today's systems have an aggregate download capacity of 2.5G bps (bits per second). The move to 10G GPON increases that by a factor of four, hence the name. The technology is also capable of an upstream capacity of 10G bps, which is eight times faster than current networks, according to Verizon Communications.
The increased capacity can either be used to handle more users or increase the bandwidth.
In December 2009, Verizon announced that it had conducted the first field-test for the technology. Since then, a number of operators have conducted tests, including France Telecom, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, Portugal Telecom, China Mobile and China Unicom, according to Huawei.
The first commercial services based on 10G GPON are expected in the second half 2011, according to Alcatel-Lucent. Pioneering operator Verizon hasn't announced any commercial plans yet, according to a spokesman.
Besides broadband, the technology is also being pitched for mobile backhaul use.
The DSL family of technologies still dominates the fixed broadband world. To ensure that operators can continue to use their copper networks, network equipment vendors are adding some new technologies to VDSL2 to increase download speeds to several hundred megabits per second
To boost DSL to those kinds of speeds, the vendors are using a number of technologies. One way is to send traffic over several copper pairs at the same time, compared to traditional DSL, which only uses one copper pair. This method then uses a technology -- called DSL Phantom Mode by Alcatel-Lucent and Phantom DSL by Nokia Siemens -- that can create a third virtual copper pair that sends data over a combination of two physical pairs.