Future of Broadband Is Multi-Gig Services

Note: This story was first published in The Online Reporter on August 21, 2015

By Kendra R Chamberlain

Comcast was the first to announce a multi-gigabit per second service. It released a splashy press release earlier this year to announce its 2 Gbps service, available in only one market, and for $200 per month. It’s not something anyone would pay for yet, and there’s a big emphasis on the “yet.”

The roll out of gigabit services has quickened in pace in the US over the last 12 months. Adtran, which makes network gear for telcos, cablecos and fibercos, recently announced it has enabled 1 Gbps services in over 200 communities in the US, about four months ahead of schedule. All of those deployments were FTTH deployments.

We are just now beginning to enter the era of gigabit broadband. There are limited applications today that can even fully leverage the 1 Gbps speeds – though that may not be true for much longer – and most communities in the US don’t have access to 1 Gbps services, though the number of communities that do have access is growing very quickly.

“If you look at the long-term trajectory, we’re really talking about gigabit services being mainstream by 2020,” said Kevin Schneider, CTO of Adtran, speaking at a press event. “They’re gathering steam now, there are many people in the country that can get it today.”

Companies like Adtran and perhaps their service provider clients are already looking at what comes next. Consensus is that everyone will move to all-fiber networks in this next phase of broadband deployment; the race is on between telcos, cablecos and fibercos in deploying the fastest speeds in areas where there’s competition, while squeezing as much speed out of the older networks where there isn’t much competition.

“GPON is working just fine delivering gigabit services today,” Schneider said. “We anticipate it will be able to deliver gigabit residential services through 2020 at a minimum. But people want more.”

Adding to the bandwidth demand is the rise of mixed-use developments, and growing desire among service providers to converge residential services with business services. “You consume a PON very quickly,” he said, in those types of settings.

The big question, Schneider said, is where is it going to go, and how fast will we get there? “Is it going to continue with this 45-50% CAGR in service [speeds]?” he asked. The 1 Gbps service is something of a milestone, and Schneider indicated what happens beyond that threshold is up for debate.

“We’ve got a really unique situation, we’ve now maxed out the LAN speed,” he said. “You can’t get a LAN right now for any affordable amount of money that runs faster than 1 Gbps.” Schneider pointed to 802.11 ac, “which ultimately should allow use to break through the 1 Gbps throughput level,” and the upcoming standard 802.3bz, which is underway in the IEEE.

“All this would suggest we will go above a gig, but perhaps at a lower trajectory than what we’ve seen leading up to a gig,” he said. “Maybe the curve will slow a little bit.”

Feature image: Night Dots (CC BY-ND 2.0) by  Islxndis