Belgacom in collaboration with Alcatel-Lucent activated the world’s first VDSL2 vectoring network which it hopes will increase speeds from 30 Mbps to 70 Mbps on copper lines.
Following numerous tests and trials in 2013 Belgacom initiated nationwide activation in December 2013 in the town of Mechelen. As part of the same phase this will be closely followed by Herstal, Laeken, Roeselaere and Mons. Activation of the next phase of towns will start in April 2014. By 2016 Belgacom is aiming to complete the upgrade of its entire VDSL2 network, comprising 22,000 remote cabinets.
Subscribers to VDSL2 vectoring enabled services will be given B-BOX3 next generation modem. Previously unveiled in June 2013, the B-BOX 3 modem enables the distribution of multiple HD TV channels using Wi Fi access without interruption.
Belgacom reported more than 1 million VDSL2 lines at the end of 2013. Once completed, the network upgrade will enable Belgacom to better support future digital services such as TV Replay, personalised content, Video-on-Demand, streaming and evolution to 4K Ultra HDTV.
However, in this particular case Belgacom was able to go ahead with vectoring because it was able to by-pass the difficulties associated with sub loop unbundling (SLU). This occurs when more than one operator has lines in a single cabinet. In such a situation vectoring will not work to its full potential due to ‘alien crosstalk’ between lines belonging and managed by different operators.
In 2011, the Belgian regulator (BIPT) withdrew the obligation for VDSL2 SLU on the grounds that it would render vectoring ineffective and was not considered to be as economically feasible as LLU. Belgacom therefore sells its lines to resellers on a wholesale basis.
This ruling effectively gives Belgacom overall control of VDSL2 vectoring services, and the regulator may have to watch this situation closely in order to prevent unnecessarily retail or wholesale price hikes.