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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.

Most of the discussion about gigabit Internet access revolves around applications that use the high definition video and low-latency features of gigabit internet. The example of two musicians performing in harmony half a world apart is an often used to explain how ultrafast symmetric connectivity with ultralow latency is different because at lower speeds harmonizing isn't possible.

A single gigabit Internet "killer app" may not emerge. It may simply be a large set of applications that are enabled by speed and low latency, just like a new set of applications emerged with the move from dial-up to broadband internet access. Distance learning and distance medicine perennial staples of legacy video conferencing applications have gotten a makeover due to these features.

And virtual reality (VR) is experiencing a resurgence. VR creates convincing 3D video imaging that the brain perceives as reality. VR over gigabit Internet could provide a front-row experience at a concert or a Broadway show, or it could give an engineer operating a robot equipped with VR cameras the experience of walking into one of the Fukushima nuclear reactors.

Many factors have coalesced into the perfect gigabit storm. Verizon FiOS proved that FTTH could scale to millions of homes. Google proved that FTTH internet access 40 times faster than the FCC broadband standard could be delivered at a price attractive to consumers. With the latest gigabit technologies that have reduced the cost and complexity of deployment, building out internet access is within the scope of capability of small ISPs that want to compete with large incumbents like Comcast, AT&T and Time Warner by throwing down the gigabit gauntlet.

In the final analysis, if Comcast's 25 Mbps internet costs $50 per month and Verizon FiOS' 75 Mbps $65 per month, why wouldn't the consumer choose Google Fiber gigabit service for $70 per month? The apps that use vivid video, blazing speed and ultralow latency will reset user expectations and drive even more growth.


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