The Cornish firm with Britain's fastest net connection

BT trial shows off 10Gbits/sec XGPON technology in Cornwall

A small engineering firm has Britain's fastest broadband connection, running at 10Gbits/sec, as part of a trial with BT.

Until six months ago, Truro-based Arcol had an ADSL connection of only 500Kbits/sec to share among its 40 employees. The connection was so slow that staff "used to go home at at six o'clock to do their email," according to Arcol's owner Alun Morgan.

However, the company was one of the beneficiaries of the Superfast Cornwall project, in which a combination of public and private money is aiming to bring fibre broadband to at least 80% of the county's population by 2014.

Arcol was first upgraded to a fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) connection, running at up to 330Mbits/sec. Now, it's participating in a trial that sees the business hooked up with a staggering 10Gbit/sec line.

That gives the business access to more bandwidth than the Olympic park enjoyed this summer, according to the director of the Superfast Cornwall Programme, BT's Dr Ranulf Scarbrough.

Speed beyond the limits of today's equipment

PC Pro witnessed tests running over the 10Gbits/sec line on a visit to Cornwall yesterday. The ultra-fast speeds use a standard called XGPON, based on networking equipment developed by ZTE.

Arcol is connected by a direct fibre link from its offices to BT's exchange in Truro, and is the first business in the country to enjoy the record-breaking speeds.

ZTE's engineers demonstrated the speed of the line by initiating a dozen or so simultaneous downloads of a 40GB file from a dedicated content server. The PC they connected to had been upgraded with a 10Gbit/sec NIC, just to be able to cope with the data-transfer speeds.

BT XGPON trial equipment

The 40GB files were transferred in around 20-30 seconds each, and even with so many simultaneously downloads, only around half the available bandwidth was being used. Scarbrough claims the physical limits of the networking and PC equipment prevents the line from being utilised at its maximum capacity.

Indeed, although the direct link between the Truro exchange and Arcol runs at 10Gbits/sec, the company isn't connected to the wider internet at those speeds "because there's nothing you could do on the internet at 100Gbits/sec," Scarbrough adds.

The XGPON trial is a demonstration that end-to-end fibre connections have the capacity to go well beyond today's 330Mbits/sec speeds, Scarbrough said, although there are no current plans to offer the service commercially.

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