Blog Post

What is gigabit broadband good for?

When it comes to broadband, gigabit per second speeds are all the rage. Large broadband providers in the U.S. have started showing off their gigabit efforts. Many communities in the U.S. and some countries have already rolled out their own gigabit networks, but it is still not clear what that speed is good for.

Kevin Lo, Head of Google’s(s goog) fiber access program speaking at the Broadband World Forum in Paris was pretty candid when he said:

“If you put a gigabit in people’s homes they will be inspired to find new ways to use it. We have no idea why you need a gigabit today, but when we all had dial up you could not possibly imagine watching video over them. It’s not about doing email faster, it’s about doing those new things that you don’t do today.”

Lo singled out HD video conferencing and telemedicine but those are relatively obvious uses. We have discussed this question in the past and will surely be talking more about this topic going forward.

6 Responses to “What is gigabit broadband good for?”

  1. Having spent some time in Asia, especially South Korea, I think Kevin has a good point – people figure out new and creative ways to use the extra bandwidth (mostly for gaming though).

  2. We’ve had LANs running Gigabit Ethernet since 1999. They’re all over the place, in homes, offices, and campuses, and they connect hundreds of millions of people.

    Twelve years later, we still don’t have any gigabit applications, so it’s doubtful that gigabit WANs are going to usher in a new era of innovation.

    Gigabit optical transceivers are cheaper than 100 meg transceivers, so there’s a compelling case to deploy gig everywhere that fiber is installed (except in data centers and IXs, where 10-100G are commonplace.) It’s valuable for aggregating lower speed links as you move from the desktop toward the backbones. But there aren’t any end-to-end apps that require a Gig, and there aren’t going to be any for the foreseeable future. One of the main drawbacks is the fact that current PCs and home routers can’t sustain Gig packet rates because of the speed of their buses, memory, and CPUs. If you can squeeze a 60 Meg PC-to-PC transfer rate over GigE today you’ve got some really high-performance gear.

    In order to consume a Gig, you need to be running an app such as holographic conferencing that combines 3 or 4 dozen HDTV streams simultaneously. Call me when you’ve got the CPU and GPU processing power to do that.

  3. the most obvious is a much better torennt and large downloads experience.

    if upload speeds match it may also mean small websites could be hosted at home or small office instead leased server/rack space in a data center.

  4. Thomas Baekdal

    Simple, with a Gigabit network we would never have to bring our data with us anymore. It is the last obstacle in mobile (if we also had 100% network coverage)

  5. Andrew Chapman

    This is really futurist stuff, but I can imagine a world where biology and digital are tightly integrated, and where ones “stream of existence” is digitized and published in a rich and expressive virtual landscape. Something like Facebook would be transformed from the series of text messages it is now to experiences almost indistinguishable from reality. Imagine having the ability to actually see and experience what your friends are experiencing at any moment. Ideally this wont be just a visual integration either, encompassing auditory, olfactory and somatosensory layers.

    In such a world interaction, education and productivity will be revolutionized and it will almost certainly need as much bandwidth as is possible.