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ntl in secret 100Mbps trials (update 2)

# 6 February 2006, 15:44 by Frank

According to a story first published on the website of British computer magazine Personal Computer World, cable company ntl has been secretly trialling a 100Mbits/sec broadband service. However, details are sketchy at the moment.

TrustedReviews quotes ntl’s Director of Communications and Policy, Keith Monserrat, as saying: “Fibre can carry up to one gigabit. It will be relatively straightforward for NTL to provide speeds of at least 100 megabytes per second across its entire network. By contrast, BT’s planned 21st Century network will not be able to deliver speeds above 10 megabytes.”

Author Gordon Kelly, referring to the statement by Monserrat, then goes on to ask “how in holy hell will this be ‘relatively straightforward’?” Indeed, judging from 140,000 views on part 3 of a thread dedicated to ntl’s questionable rollout of its 10Mbps service, it is interesting that Mr Monserrat considers it “relatively straightforward” a feat to rollout a 100Mbps service in light of significant reliability problems in a service 1/10th of the speed.

One forum member commented: “Hope it’s more straightforward than your apparent difficulty in learning the difference between megabits and megabytes Keith, you’ve been getting them wrong in your releases for ages.”

Few details are available on the trial, but it will certainly not be ADSL2+ or using the existing DOCSIS 1.1 cable modem standard, according to ADSLGuide.

It is possible NTL are looking at DOCSIS 3.0 which will allow them to exploit the cables already in place, though changes to the terminating hardware would be needed, and can run at up to 200Mbps per channel and an upstream of 100Mbps.

Interestly, DOCSIS 3.0 is still “pie in the sky”, as TrustedReviews so elequently puts it, and such speeds are beyond the limitations of ADSL2+. VDSL2 can hit 100Mbps but only at distances of up to half a mile from the exchange, so how this is “relatively straightforward” remains to be seen.

Update 1: According to Cable Forum’s resident networking expert Ignition, ntl’s 100Mbps trial is not DOCSIS 3. It would appear that the trial may use technology similar to that available from Narad Networks:

The Narad Broadband Access Network (NBAN) is a switched Ethernet overlay that touches the cable plant with only passive filters. NBAN provides an additional 100 Mbps upstream plus 100 Mbps downstream on each of the four coaxial cable trunks in a hybrid fiber-coax (HFC) fiber node. This allows cable operators to deliver new broadband IP services while preserving existing network infrastructure and services. The Narad solution coexists with all existing network elements without requiring replacement of any existing network equipment.

Update 2: ntl’s Public Relations office has contacted us to point out that TrustedReviews “lifted the quote from an article in the Business, which appeared a year ago”. In light of this information, perhaps the name TrustedReviews is not so suitable after all? Regardless of that, the quote still refers to ntl providing 100Mbps broadband, and the fact that it is a year old goes to show that perhaps providing such speeds is not as straightforward as Mr Monserrat first thought.

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