AT&T achieves 20Gbps speeds on a production fibre network

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AT&T has achieved 20Gbps symmetric speeds on a production fibre network, an industry-first.

The operator’s Hyper-Gig service is already the fastest in the US, offering 5Gbps symmetric speeds to consumers and businesses.

AT&T has been working to further increase its speeds to ensure its network is prepared for whatever future applications are thrown at it. Earlier this year, the operator announced that it had achieved 10Gbps speeds in its labs.

Lab tests typically don’t represent real-world conditions and results should be taken with a large pinch of salt. Test results from production networks offer a true representation of what to expect.

AT&T says it’s managed to achieve not just 10Gbps speeds but 20Gbps in its production network. Furthermore, those speeds are symmetric.

Eddy Barker, AVP Mobility & Access Architecture at AT&T, wrote in a blog post:

“Why are symmetric speeds so important? Consumers and businesses are increasingly both content consumers and creators. We are uploading and sending videos and other massive files.

For example, if you’re an online gamer, you are exchanging tons of data with other players in real-time, perhaps teaming up with your friends in VR or livestreaming your exploits to millions of fans.

For businesses, sharing video and VR streams across the network enables near-real-time data analytics, metaverse communities, increased worker safety, robotic manufacturing, and more.”

For some idea of how far the industry has come when it comes to fibre broadband, AT&T first began deploying it around 2010. At the time, customers had to share 2.5 Gbps downstream and 1.25 Gbps upstream.

That initial service was built on Gigabit Passive Optical Networking (GPON) technology. In 2020, AT&T began testing and deploying new XGS-PON technology—boosting network fibre capacity by 4x downstream and 8x upstream.

XGS-PON is what currently powers AT&T’s Hyper-Gig service. However, the next hot thing for AT&T is 25GS-PON.

25GS-PON uses the same fibre cables that AT&T has been installing for over a decade but expands capacity by around 2.5x compared to XGS-PON.

“In our trial, we were able to take advantage of wavelength coexistence with our FiberWise™ technology – combining 25GS-PON with XGS-PON and other point-to-point services over the same fiber to offer an efficient evolutionary path,” explained Barker.

AT&T is part of the 25GSPON MSA group which consists of more than 50 global operators. The group is driving the standards and specs of the new tech and AT&T expects it to bring 25GS-PON to maturity in the next 6-12 months.

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