Firstly, an apology to anyone reading this article on a sluggish Fibre-to-the-Cabinet broadband deal.
If you visited our site today in the hope of finding an ISP that can allow Netflix to stream without buffering, what you’re about to read might make you feel a bit cross.
Even so, it’s worth paying attention to, because the days of spinning circles and ‘Loading…’ messages might be drawing to a close.
Getting the gig’
In recent years, there’s been lots of talk about rolling out gigabit-capable internet connectivity to the nation’s homes.
Yet while many households remain far behind the technological curve, service providers and hardware companies are already looking beyond gigabit connections.
The World Broadband Association (WBBA to its friends) published a report last month that predicted some domestic premises might one day be served by 50Gbps connections.
The day in question is projected to be around 2030.
Before you start spluttering about how your local exchange still restricts you to 11Mbps download speeds, we should stress the global nature of the WBBA’s outlook.
They’re referring to specific pockets of densely populated urban areas where the very latest full fibre cabling has been (or will be) installed.
They’re not suggesting this will be widely available, let alone available in the UK or in your specific postcode.
They’re merely speculating that in eight years’ time, the technology will exist to deliver data at an order of magnitude faster than is presently possible.
We think of gigabit connectivity as the ultimate benchmark for high-speed internet. However, the WBBA is looking beyond this established domestic standard.
They even suggest some commercial connections might soon be measured in terabits per second, though these would be intended for specialised service providers, rather than your local florist.
Why would I need a 50Gbps broadband connection?
At the moment, there are no consumer-facing applications which would strain even a 1Gbps connection, let alone one 50 times as fast.
However, the WBBA are looking far beyond today’s circumstances and software platforms, to predict what might await us in the coming decades.
For instance, today’s 4K streaming content contains seven times as many binary bits of data as a standard definition stream.
With 8K TVs already on sale in the UK, and 16K in the pipeline, you can easily see where additional bandwidth might be valuable for the next generation of streaming services.
Similarly, the metaverse is presently clunky and basic – a modern-day equivalent of text-filled websites in the dial-up age.
Modern websites have evolved to capitalise on vastly superior bandwidth, and the metaverse may also be transformed from today’s legless avatars and blocky buildings.
Imagine how much data would have to be downloaded to depict an immersive, wraparound virtual world in 8K picture quality, and with near-realistic facial characteristics among its avatars.
This is where the additional bandwidth offered by 50Gbps broadband connections might start to be of some use, providing more than enough capacity for any real or imagined content.
And let’s not forget that in the age of dial-up, when advertising agencies used 512Kbps T1 lines, there was scepticism that consumers would ever need anything as fast, let alone faster.
A decade ago, 1Gbps domestic connections would have seemed preposterous, yet now there’s an ambition to install gigabit-speed full fibre into every new home.
We can’t be sure that 50Gbps broadband connections won’t be of value ten years down the line.
However, a great deal of infrastructure investment will be required to achieve those speeds – or anything close – here in the UK.