Could you soon get 10Gb broadband speeds down your phone line?

Researchers at Alcatel-Lucent may have found a way of squeezing ultrafast fibre optic broadband speeds down traditional copper telephone wires, but is it the future? For some people, yes maybe...

Fibre optic broadband's the future. Right? Well, now we don't know what to believe after internet boffins in Belgium managed to get an ultrafast download speed nearly 70 times the UK residential average to flow along an old-fashioned copper telephone wire.

Researchers at Bell Labs, named after telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell, set a new record broadband speed of 10Gb (10,000Mb) on a copper wire, like the landlines still used to this day to connect the majority of homes to the internet.

It'll probably be a few years before the prototype technology - known as XG-Fast - is ready for commercial use, and it only really works across short distances.

However, by combining fibre optic cables with much cheaper copper wire, it's possible that in future providers will be able to offer superfast broadband in areas of the country where it's not commercially viable to install it at the moment.

Marcus Weldon, president of Bell Labs, owned by telecoms giant Alcatel-Lucent, said: "Our constant aim is to push the limits of what's possible to 'invent the future', with breakthroughs that are 10 times better than are possible today.

"Our demonstration of 10Gb over copper is a prime example. By pushing broadband technology to its limits, operators can determine how they could deliver gigabit services over their existing networks, ensuring the availability of ultra-broadband access as widely and as economically as possible."

Currently, BT uses a technique known as fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) to deliver speeds of up to 76Mb. It works by replacing the copper wire between the local telephone exchange and the green box on your street, the 'cabinet', with fibre optic broadband cable.

The final stretch, from the street cabinet and into your home, is completed by traditional copper. This is why BT can't match the 152Mb top speed of Virgin Media, who connect homes with coaxial cable - less prone to interference - instead of copper wire.

Most other fibre broadband providers in the UK - including EE, Plusnet and Sky - use BT's network to deliver a FTTC service to their customers. But these aren't the only high-speed home broadband options currently on the market.

Hyperoptic, the UK's first major fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) broadband provider, offers an 'ultrafast' service in various locations in the south of England and Wales, and it'll soon reach Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds.

With download speeds of up to 1Gb, it's over 50 times faster than the UK's home average of 14.7Mb. The only problem is you can only get it installed if you live in a building - most likely a new block of flats - with sufficient demand to make it worthwhile for Hyperoptic.

Even if your options are very limited at the moment, you might not have to wait too much longer for superfast broadband to arrive. The government's working with BT to bring fibre optic broadband to 95% of the population by 2017.

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