Until recently, the idea of gigabit broadband might have seemed as fanciful as a jumbo jet made out of flowers.
Yet the truth is often stranger than fiction.
Having already progressed from tediously slow and line-hogging dial-up to comfortably fast home broadband, another performance revolution is on the horizon.
In fact, in one or two select corners of the United Kingdom, it’s already here…
The good, the bad and the ultra
At present, domestic broadband connections fall into one of three categories:
- Conventional broadband, with line speeds of up to 24 megabits per second (Mbps)
- Superfast broadband up to 300 Mbps
- Ultrafast broadband over 300 Mbps.
It won’t come as a surprise to learn that ISPs are constantly stretching these definitions, such as advertising 100Mbps connections as ultrafast.
However, there’s no denying that any three-digit connection speeds will seem impressive to anyone who remembers dial-up services.
ISPs are working hard to provide ever-faster services, including Openreach, who are responsible for most of the UK’s landlines.
The UK Government has also pledged £67 million for local communities and small business, with grants of up to £2,500 towards the cost of installing each gigabit-capable connection.
Do you wanna go faster?
A number of ISPs already offer ultrafast broadband, and maximum speeds are increasing year on year.
In the south of England, infrastructure specialist Gigaclear is developing a proprietary network of Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) broadband with speeds up to 900Mbps.
Vodafone has also achieved 900Mbps with its Gigafast service, while Hyperoptic is able to deliver 900Mbps average speeds to the majority of customers taking out a 1Gbps contract.
Indeed, we might need a new term to differentiate this tier of line speeds, like gigafast.
Regardless of possible terminology, burgeoning demand from commercial clients should see connection speeds of 1Gbps being achieved in major towns and cities before long.
Under Ofcom advertising guidelines, that means most customers will be able to download data at over 1Gbps during the evening ‘rush hour’ period.
Why does gigabit broadband matter?
It matters for several reasons.
Firstly, we are consuming far more internet data than ever before.
Netflix alone is responsible for 15 per cent of the entire planet’s internet traffic, while YouTube is the world’s second-biggest search engine behind parent company Google.
Faster connections enable more people to stream HD content simultaneously, minimising buffering or dropouts.
Secondly, the number of devices connecting to our hubs and routers is increasing exponentially because of the Internet of Things.
This catch-all term covers the growing plethora of gadgets and gizmos around the home capable of uploading data.
From kitchen appliances and intelligent security systems to product reordering buttons and fitness monitors, IoT data growth consumes a growing amount of available bandwidth.
Faster connections should ensure existing activities aren’t compromised by increases in the volume of sentient data being stealthily uploaded in the background.
Thirdly, we’re becoming intolerant of slow page loading times, buffering media files and other connection-based issues.
Gigabit connections ought to eliminate these frustrations, ensuring there’s always surplus bandwidth.
Finally, gigabit broadband represents an aspirational acquisition. Consumers will pay a premium to enjoy the fastest connectivity, and to claim bragging rights down the pub.
The first company to roll out 1Gbps line speeds in each area will attract a lot of new customers, achieving early market dominance and enhancing their reputation.
Companies are willing to invest heavily in pursuit of these goals.