Will we all need gigabit broadband one day?

Will we all need gigabit broadband one day?

Friday, 28 June, 2019

It’s fair to say nobody saw today’s reliance on broadband coming.

Back in 2009, ten per cent of UK households relied on dial-up internet, and Netflix was still posting out DVDs.

Fast-forward to the present day, and these recent cultural phenomena seem like relics of a bygone age.

Our rapidly changing tastes in media consumption are placing unprecedented demand on telecommunications infrastructure that was never designed for this much activity.

Infrastructure providers and broadband companies are investing heavily in ambitious roll-outs of Fibre to the Premises cabling.

Some FTTP connections are capable of transmitting data at 300Mbps, which is 535 times faster than dial-up ever was.

And it’s still not enough…

Gig economy

Earlier this year, a senior employee of cable company CityFibre suggested every home in the UK would benefit with the advent of gigabit broadband.

This term describes any connection capable of downloading data at one gigabit per second.

Today’s connections operate at megabits per second, where dial-up ran at kilobits per second.

Even though asymmetric lines always prioritise downloads over uploads, the upload speeds possible from gigabit broadband services should still be remarkable.

Best of all, gigabit FTTP services abolish the slow copper cables used to pipe data between local exchange boxes and our homes.

These have the potential to throttle ultrafast Fibre to the Cabinet connections, resulting in the disappointing 11Mbps or 36Mbps connection speeds familiar to millions of people.

Why does line speed matter?

It matters because our lives are increasingly dependent on constant internet connectivity.

As the number of smart devices in our homes continues to expand, more information will be uploaded and downloaded at any given moment.

We’re gradually evolving away from standard definition content towards HD. The next evolution will be 4K streaming services, presumably followed by eye-popping 8K.

We access computer games online rather than installing them, and we communicate with friends and relatives via social media instead of by telephone or post.

The myriad benefits of home working have created a generation of people reliant on cloud-hosted tools like Skype, Adobe Creative Cloud and Microsoft Office 365.

Line speed will matter even more in the coming age of remote medical advice and fully autonomous devices, all demanding internet connections with virtually no latency.

(Latency is the delay between issuing a request over the internet and having it responded to. As an example, latency of over 50ms renders some online games unplayable).

Is it coming soon?

Installing subterranean broadband infrastructure is a slow and laborious process, but pockets of the UK are already gigabit-enabled.

From Bournemouth to Hull, residents of certain postcodes are currently enjoying small-scale trial installations by KCOM, TalkTalk, Hyperoptic and the aforementioned CityFibre.

And as our recent guide explained, new-build estates tend to be hotbeds of connectivity.

Virgin Media is also trialling gigabit broadband, but we’ll have to wait a few years before it’s widely available.

Neil Cumins author picture


Neil is our resident tech expert. He's written guides on loads of broadband head-scratchers and is determined to solve all your technology problems!