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Gigabit Internet access grows out of its niche

Steven Max Patterson | July 27, 2015
Google Fiber launched in Kansas City in 2011. It offered gigabit speed at $70 per month and ignited the development of an ultrafast Internet access category that has since spread throughout the U.S.

The relentless decline of Internet transit costs, as seen in the above charts from Bill Norton's DrPeering website, has also reduced the cost for ISPs to provide the greater bandwidth demands of gigabit customers without increasing costs.

Gigabit Internet access was constrained by slow Wi-Fi routers that couldn't keep-up until 802.11ac W-iFi devices shipped in 2012 and became commoditized with Broadcom's 802.11ac chipset late last year. With more channels, 802.11ac routers can serve more users at a multiple of the previous Wi-Fi standard 802.11n speeds and 20 times faster than 802.11g the standard just two generations ago.

At its current stage, gigabit Internet access isn't much different than the early iPhone. Both are platforms launched with a few apps to give context to potential use cases. Like the iPhone that debuted before 3G data service was fully built-out and interaction with others was limited because so few people owned an iPhone at the time the full context of gigabit Internet applications won't be fully understood until more homes and businesses are connected to it and more apps are created.

US Ignite a nonprofit sponsored by both the U.S. government and such industry partners as Juniper, Cisco, Verizon, Google, Comcast, and others facilitates gigabit platform development by matching developers and researchers with city test beds to demonstrate and promote gigabit application. US Ignite also curates gigabit applications and has plans to open an app store.

John George, director of solutions and professional services at OFC Optics outlines the types of applications that'll attract consumers and businesses, with, you guessed it, a predilection to video. "Consumers will first see the difference in gigabit Internet with ultra-high definition video streaming and vivid tele-presence applications," says George. Especially since the low-speed connections to remote and home offices have left most people out of the high-quality video game. "Enterprises will take notice of video tele-presence too. Gigabit Internet will include remote workers with large screen as-if-you-are-there video quality," George says. He also points to education and remote control as areas rife for important applications, but notes that "it's too early to predict all the applications that will be catalyzed by gigabit Internet until developers and researchers have had some time to work with it."

The cloud is only as good as the network

It's important to note that vivid video tele-presence isn't video conferencing. It borders on virtual reality with a continuous connection that uses large screens and high definition 4K low-latency video to create a real sense of participation. Beyond the benefits of improved communication and reduced travel, gigabit Internet complements enterprise trends in virtualization. The cloud is only as good as the network. Gigabit Internet will enable solutions such as virtual desktop infrastructure and cloud storage that enhance reliability and security.


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