Gigabit Broadband: Do We Need it? Why Not?

Erik Keith

Erik Keith

Summary Bullets:

  • Gigabit broadband is getting a lot of hype and press, and for good reason. While no current applications require such throughput, offering Gigabit services, especially at reasonable and/or disruptive prices, can be a very strong differentiator for operators. Likewise, it could prove much appreciated by end users, many of which are beyond fed up with their respective telco or cable providers.
  • Credit must be given to the pioneering Gigabit service providers. In North America they include utilities, municipalities and other non-traditional service providers, such as Electric Power Board (EPB) Chattanooga (first to offer mass market Gbps in the U.S.), Bristol Virginia Utilities (BVU), CenturyLink, and of course, Google Fiber.

This week, the 2014 North American FTTH Council Conference and Expo is taking place in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. One of the hot topics is Gigabit broadband, with operators such as CenturyLink, EPB Chattanooga and GVTC all highlighting either their current Gigabit service offerings, or corresponding roadmaps for delivering 1 Gbps connections. For the record, CenturyLink is initiating Gigabit services in the Omaha, Nebraska metro, while EPB Chattanooga was the first service provider in the U.S. to offer Gigabit connections in a truly mass market fashion. For those unfamiliar with GVTC, the company founded as Guadalupe Valley Telephone Cooperative, now serves 39,000 customers in the Texas hill country near San Antonio. While Gigabit broadband access services have been available for years in some very select, overseas markets (e.g., Hong Kong Broadband Network was a pioneer and remains the global Gigabit Poster Child), this mightiest of what is termed ultra-broadband is still available to only a very small fraction of global broadband subscribers. Also, for further clarification, any reference to ultra- or Gigabit broadband refers to wireline technology, as wireless networking solutions are a very long way from being able to support such extremely high-bandwidth connections. Read more of this post