The new ‘ultra-dense vectorisation’ technology is set to double the copper networks’ speed and capacity, but could this lessen the urgency of the operator’s fibre rollout?

Working together with Nokia, engineers from Belgian operator Proximus have developed a way for copper networks to deliver twice the speed and capacity that was previously available.

The technology, called 2MX6, is based on Nokia’s Quillion chip and uses what they call ‘ultra-dense vectorisation’ to double the capacity of street cabinets, allowing each cabinet to support 384 users instead of the previous 192. In turn, the technology can double the potential speeds available over the networks, while also reducing power consumption. 

Furthermore, due to the small scale of this equipment, the 2MX6 technology can be inserted directly into the cabinets, minimising disruption for customers.

For the time being, this technology has only been deployed in the city of Andenne, but Proximus says it hopes to roll out the equipment to “hundreds” more cabinets in various locations across the country in the coming months.

But is extending the life of copper networks in this way really a good idea?

According to statistics released today by the FTTH Council Europe, Belgium is one of Europe’s worst performing countries when it comes to fibre penetration, with less than 2% of homes having access to fibre-to-the-home broadband. The report did note, however, that Belgium has the largest annual growth rate in fibre in Europe, increasing the countries fibre penetration by 155% in the year from September 2019 to September 2020.

Proximus were quick to point out that this new technological breakthrough would not detract from their fibre rollout goals.

“Our absolute priority is the fibre roll-out, which is at the heart of our strategy, to achieve 70% FTTH coverage of the population by 2028. In the first quarter of this year alone, Proximus rolled out fibre to an additional 73,000 buildings, extending its fibre coverage to 533,000 households and businesses,” said Patrick Delcoigne, Director Network Engineering & Operations at Proximus. 

“At the same time, it is important to us that consumers who do not have direct access to fibre can also benefit from high-speed Internet. This highlights the importance of this technology, developed with Nokia and rolled out for the first time in Andenne. It is the densest and fastest copper solution that can be inserted into a street cabinet. With this new solution, we are able to bring more bandwidth to more people.”

To what extent this technology will impact Proximus’ decision to retire its existing very high-speed digital subscriber line (VDSL) infrastructure in the coming years remains to be seen.


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