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New Gfast Silicon Joins Gigabit Class

November 14, 2017

Author: Bob Wheeler

With sexier broadband technologies in the news, it’s easy to forget that twisted-pair copper still delivers service to about 250 million broadband subscribers, predominantly in the U.S. and Western Europe. At last month’s Broadband World Forum (BBWF) in Berlin, vendors showed new silicon for Gfast Amendment 3, which increases the maximum frequency to 212MHz and download speeds to more than 1Gbps.

Startup Sckipio, the Gfast flag bearer, demonstrated its new SCK23000 chipset delivering 3.1Gbps downloads and 900Mbps uploads over two bonded pairs of Category 3 wiring. It’s first with chips that handle bonding for the new 212MHz profile. Broadcom, the leading vendor of DSL silicon, introduced a new SoC for home gateways that supports one 212MHz Gfast line or two-line bonding for 106MHz Gfast and 35MHz VDSL. To reduce the number of gateway models (SKUs) that telcos must work with, the BCM63158 also supports GPON.

Although Gfast extends the life of copper, Verizon remains optimistic about fixed wireless broadband as a new alternative. It plans to disclose results of its pre-5G millimeter-wave trials this quarter and expects to launch fixed service in 2018. For chip vendors, fixed wireless broadband further fragments a market already served by a mix of DSL, cable, and PON. Chip vendors are aligning their strategies with their technology and geographic strengths. Intel and Qualcomm appear focused on 5G, whereas Broadcom has developed the most comprehensive wired-broadband portfolio.

Broadcom’s wired-broadband dominance has generated about $1.6 billion in combined 2016 sales of DSL, PON, and cable ASSPs. According to our estimates, it captured 71% of the DSL IC market, with Intel a distant second. The latter company invested in Sckipio two years ago but has since made no move into Gfast products. Last year, its Connected Home Division introduced the GRX750 home-gateway SoC, which omits a DSL modem. This situation leaves Broadcom and Sckipio as the leading chip vendors investing in Gfast.

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