What is Gigabit Broadband and What Are Some of the Advantages?

by Aeyne Schriber on November 27, 2014 in Internet Access

Gigabit broadband represents the next generation of high speed Internet. It is a collaborative goal set forth by telecommunications carriers and government agencies to deploy gigabit networks in an effort to create a more connected environment. So, what is gigabit broadband and what are the benefits?

In early 2013, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Julius Genachowski, announced his Gigabit Challenge. The purpose of the challenge was to encourage Internet Service Providers (ISPs), as well as state and local governments in the US to deliver gigabit broadband services across the entire United States by the year 2015.

The challenge follows one of a series of goals included in the National Broadband Plan that “every American community should have affordable access to at least 1 gigabit per second broadband service to anchor institutions such as schools, hospitals and government buildings,” according to goal four in the plan.

The reason schools, hospitals, and government buildings are top priority is because they are considered to be anchors in the community. If the main pillars of a community are furnished with gigabit broadband, it will be more cost effective to deliver gigabit broadband Internet to private homes.

As a result, a project established as a public/private partnership was initiated in an effort to connect universities and communities in a collaborative effort to deploy high speed broadband networks in the participating communities. The program is called Gig.U and is an effort by municipal governments and ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to roll out an upgrade for broadband Internet networks in communities across the United States.

The Gig.U program consists of 30 leading research universities from across the United States. The institutions purpose is to oversee the deployment of gigabit broadband networks to the leading universities and surrounding communities in various areas of the US.

The Gig.U project has gathered more than $200 million in private investments to fund the construction of gigabit broadband networks in communities where many of the top research universities are located. An example of a project is taking place in Seattle Washington and is a collaborative project between a local Internet Service Provider and the University of Washington. The goal of the project is to deploy ultra-high speed gigabit broadband Internet to surrounding areas in Seattle.

The following video provides more information on the Seattle gigabit broadband project from the Executive Director of Gig.U.

Although the future of applications that run on high speed connection is yet to be realized, the new services that are already emerging are a sign that more residences will have increased uses for faster broadband speeds. And Internet Service Providers will gain the capacity to provide it. The broadband speeds that gigabit Internet provides are one hundred times faster than the typical connection you currently receive in your home.

What is Gigabit Broadband?

Gigabit broadband is an ultra-high form of high speed Internet which is capable of providing data transfer download speeds of 1GB (gigabit) per second (Gbps). This download speed is the equivalent of 1000 Mbps where the typical download speed for your current broadband connection is typically 8 to 12 Mbps or higher.

Gigabit technology is not a component of actual data transfer rate because most of today’s devices are designed to transfer data in Kbps (kilobits per second) and Mbps (megabits per second. As data transmission rates increase and advancements in technology continue, more PC users will begin to become familiar with the concept of gigabit Internet.

At the same token, the term gigabit is used as a unit of measurement to determine the number of bits of data being transferred. A bit represents the smallest unit of data. One single character of text such as one letter of the alphabet takes up eight bits. Additionally, many people confuse the term gigabit with gigabyte. The main difference is devices use the term gigabytes such as a 50GB hard drive for amount of storage capacity where gigabits are used to define the rate of data transfer between two devices.

Connections that deliver broadband speeds of 1Gbps are extremely fast and one hundred times faster than the common broadband Internet connection you receive from your ISP. For this reason the Gig.U project is an effort to get this type of connection to communities across the United States. This will enable research universities and technology professionals to develop next generation services and applications that will contribute to global market competitiveness and economic growth.

Gigabit Internet utilizes fiber optic lines to deliver high speed broadband to your home. Currently there are just over 21 cities in the United States that offer gigabit broadband Internet service. Google is one of the providers of gigabit broadband and is currently delivering ultra-high speed broadband service to cities in Texas, Utah, and Kansas. The ultimate goal as outlined by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Gig.U project is to eventually extend gigabit broadband throughout the United States.

The increased speed that gigabit broadband delivers will mean that you can access next generation video streaming services such as ultra-high definition which is just beginning to be offered. Ultra high definition requires download speeds of anywhere from 20Mbps to 30Mbps which is typically much higher than current broadband connections are capable of. This also places a higher demand on the infrastructure for ISPs which will require them to create the capacity necessary to handle consumer demand.

Gigabit Broadband Initiatives

There are several initiatives currently underway in the United States by a variety of different Internet Service Providers. The gigabit broadband rollout by several companies is known as the Game of Gigs.

Google has been moving forward with ultra-fast gigabit broadband connections in several cities in the United States. Google also plans to extend Google Fiber to 34 additional communities in nine regions in the United States. Three of the regions are already associated with the Gig.U project.

Recently, the rollout of Google Fiber in Kansas has seen more than 96 percent of improvement in broadband speed each year following the delivery of gigabit broadband. The improvement equals an increase of broadband speeds to more than 34 Mbps. The following video will provide you with a glimpse into Google Fiber speed capabilities.

Century Link, a primary provider of broadband Internet services, has been introducing trial projects for gigabit broadband in Nebraska and Nevada and recently announced it will deploy gigabit broadband Internet to professional buildings in Salt Lake City, Utah. The company plans to expand gigabit broadband to 13 additional cities in the United States which will provide high speed gigabit broadband to both businesses and private homes.

AT&T is also participating in the Game of Gigs by investing in more than 100 municipalities and cities throughout the United States. Many of these cities have crafted terms and conditions to encourage AT&T to invest in gigabit broadband networks. One of the primary projects is the North Carolina Next Generation Network which is associated with the Gig.U project.

Frontier Communications already has rolled out gigabit broadband in several areas in the state of Oregon. The company invested more than $128 million to upgrade its broadband networks. This will allow homeowners to enjoy faster speeds which provides a way to establish a fully connected residence. If your family has multiple members that access the Internet simultaneously using different devices, this is feasible without any hassles with disruption of service.

Families can now have multiple devices performing downloads, uploads, video streaming, gaming, and sharing of content simultaneously. Plus, you will be able to participate in the Internet of Things with automated devices that allow you to control appliances in your residence.

Currently, Frontier Communications is offering gigabit broadband speeds of up to 100 Mbps to homes in Oregon using the FiOS configuration. This is similar to Verizon’s signature ultra-high speed broadband configuration which was recently rolled out is different areas throughout the United States.

Gigabit Broadband Advantages

As you can see, speed is the major driving force behind delivering gigabit broadband in more regions throughout the United States. To provide you with an idea of what gigabit broadband can do, here are a few scenarios:

If you have ever used Google Maps, you most likely have endured a waiting period during use. The maps typically load in sections when you zoom in which can take time depending upon the speed of your broadband connection. Most of us are used to the patience that is required to use Google Maps and Street View.

When you use Google Maps with gigabit broadband, the maps load immediately without problems with delays, blurring, pixilation, and other issues. You will find that you can zoom in faster and find your destination immediately.

A test that involved loading ten full high definition videos from YouTube showed that all videos ran seamlessly on a gigabit broadband service without any issues with buffering, screen freeze ups, and other common hassles. Although one person may not want to watch ten videos at once, this scenario is very useful for households with multiple family members trying to connect simultaneously.

Capacity is the most important aspect of gigabit broadband and does not require you to ration bandwidth usage. When you surf the Internet, web pages will load immediately and tests have showed a download speed of 915 Mbps (megabits per second) as compared with the standard 8 to 15 Mbps with most broadband service providers.

With more bandwidth and increased connectivity speeds, this will also change the face of human interactions and the way in which we view a community environment. This is because ultra-high speed broadband is capable of providing real life interactions that are very similar to real world experiences.

Another advantage of gigabit broadband is the promise of new applications that can run on an ultra-fast Internet connection. This type of connection speed will encourage the creation of next generation applications and services that will not only service homeowners but many different industries, including the way we deliver healthcare and engage in education.

The availability of gigabit broadband will enhance the capabilities of health monitors and help to manage chronic illnesses, according the American Enterprise Institute. High speed gigabit broadband will allow patients to continually monitor their health so they are up to speed when they are falling into unhealthy habits.

For people who are aging, new health monitoring technology that can operate on ultra-fast Internet speeds will mean that your elderly parents can remain in their home as fast gigabit speeds help to fill everyday human needs.

These are only a few of the advantages that gigabit broadband will bring to the table. As the technology expands, more innovations will emerge. The only concern communities and municipalities face is the problem of the digital divide. As gigabit broadband is deployed to new areas, for the time being remote areas will still be operating on current broadband speeds offered by local Internet Service Providers.

Gigabit Broadband Challenges

Although the Gig.U project is well underway, many of the Internet Service Providers are faced with many challenges when it comes to establishing the capacity to deliver ultra-high speed broadband throughout the United States. Some of the primary challenges include:

Cost

Cost is a concern among many of the major broadband providers. Many of them are hesitant to invest in the infrastructure needed to deliver gigabit broadband services. Although cost is at the top of the list, second is the concern that there are not enough applications available to warrant an ultra-fast Internet connection. Therefore there may not be a demand for gigabit broadband technology.

Many of the Internet Service Providers have stated that in areas where gigabit broadband is being offered, only a small percentage of their customer base chooses this service. Additionally, the cost concern is understandable since the infrastructure required to deploy gigabit broadband may prove to be risky in terms of Return on Investment (ROI).

Many of the cable Internet Service Providers have an upgrade that is not as costly. The upgrade path involves DOCSIS (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification) technology in which the architecture is capable of enabling gigabit broadband services. At the same token, Internet Service Providers that are using Telco Technologies face an upgrade that is more complex, takes longer, and is cost prohibitive. This is because it requires the installation of fiber optics as a replacement for copper cable lines.

The cost challenge is not impossible but it will require Internet Service Providers to partner with municipalities and communities in order to reduce the risk and costs associated with implementation. Additionally, ISPs will need to come up with a plan for increasing revenues by offering new services.

Applications

As of currently, many broadband customers would be unable to consume the large amount of bandwidth offered by a gigabit broadband connection. Plus, the majority of Internet Service Providers are currently unable to meet the demands for required capacity. However, this is the current situation and it is expected to change as the demand for bandwidth and higher broadband speeds increases.

According to a study by the Visual Networking Index (VNI), global Internet traffic has increased by as much as eight times within 5 years. The VNI predicts traffic will increase more than three times during the next five years. The compound annual growth rate for Internet traffic is 29 percent from the year 2011 to the year 2016.

This means that it is likely that gigabit broadband will be a facilitator to a variety of new applications and devices that are capable of leveraging ultra-fast gigabit broadband speeds. Next generation applications such as a virtual physician’s office, as well as three dimensional imaging and printing will become increasing common, in addition to immersive applications that benefit both healthcare and education and many other industry sectors.

Conclusion

Where exactly the inception of gigabit broadband is taking us still remains to be seen. However, you will find that the deployment of gigabit broadband technologies will change the face of applications and services over the next three to five years. Then if ISPs can find a way to bridge the digital divide between the old and the new, this will totally change the way we view community and the manner in which we communicate in our daily lives.

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