Fibre-to-the-home is the holy grail of broadband, but rolling out all that optical cable to each house costs a bomb, especially in Britain. A recent VDSL2 development by Alcatel-Lucent should help our copper wires stretch that little bit further.
Even BT's Infinity, 'fibre optic broadband' is copper to the house. That means that no matter what you do between the exchange and the cabinet you're going to be limited by the copper component into your house. The problem with ol'copper is that the speeding packets of data cause electrical noise, which creates interference, or cross talk, with the connections of others flowing down the next adjacent cable. This in turn reduces the maximum speed you can push through the ancient copper cables that link our houses to the network.
Alcatel-Lucent aims to use vectoring to reduce the copper-wire interference for multiple customers simultaneously, allowing copper lines to support speeds in excess of 100Mbps. Vectoring is the process of calculating the amount of cross talk on the line by sending data back from the home to specialised equipment in the cabinet and comparing the signals. The amount of interference is calculated for all the lines allowing cancellation of that cross talk.
The end result is much faster broadband speeds using existing infrastructure, which should be great for the majority of us in Britain stuck with crappy old copper. While I dream of fibre-to-the-home, as long as I'm getting 100Mbps I don't really care how it gets into my house. [Alcatel-Lucent via IEEE Spectrum]