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1Gbps Capable Home Fibre Optic Broadband ISP Services Show Global Growth

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012 (9:24 am) - Score 1,817

A new study from Telecom ThinkTank and RVA Market Research for the FTTH Council has revealed an interesting investigation into why a small but increasing number of broadband ISPs around the world are starting to introduce 1Gbps (Gigabits / sec [i.e. 1000Mbps]) capable fibre optic (FTTH , FTTP) internet connections for home users.

The report notes that many “analysts” still view Gigabit broadband services as being “overkill” and claim that “today’s computers cannot even operate at that speed“, indeed we’d agree that at present it would be very difficult for the vast majority of home users to take full advantage of such services. Not to mention that most ISPs could not meet such heavy capacity demands, at least not without putting the brakes on shared service speeds.

On the other hand it’s not a bad idea to build the infrastructure for future expansion as demand continues to surge. But interestingly the council’s report suggests that the first Gigabit subscribers can already take advantage of such services by using “multiple devices and multiple simultaneous applications serve to make efficient use of their 1,000 megabits per second pipe“.

Gigabit Subscriber Characteristics

These gigabit subscribers have multiple applications in play at all times. They are near continuous users of social networking (Twitter, Linked-In, Facebook, etc.). They view HD video downloads and streaming media via Hulu and other sources. They participate in a number of Multi-player games and own the latest game consoles. And, for many, the distinction between home and office has faded with network performance and efficiency better at home than at work.

That still doesn’t sound like enough to fill up a true 1Gbps pipe. It might surprise some readers that quite a few ISPs are now offering the service, not mention several in the UK (not all are listed below), such as Hyperoptic, B4RN and IFNL.

2012 global gigabit broadband isp list

The study notes that most of these residential gigabit ISPs have small-footprints and serve densely populated areas (e.g. Hyperoptic), while a few (e.g. B4RN, Jersey Telecom) are focused on rural areas. In total the global list consists of 14 operators (this doesn’t yet reflect a lot of the recent/niche entrants, such as B4RN), most of whom have offered gigabit services for less than one year.

The councils own March 2012 estimate is that “global residential gigabit subscribers number in the hundreds“, though this is set to rise dramatically when related developments in South Korea, Singapore and the USA begin deploying later this year.

Sadly the councils study isn’t hugely detailed but they do provide some useful issues on a number of key areas, such as price. Prices for residential gigabit services apparently range from a low of £16.3 per month (US$26) for Hong Kong Broadband’s service to a high of £352 ($560) at network operator Turkcell. This allegedly seems to correlate with the capital expenditure required to pass a subscriber in the serving area ($200 per home in Hong Kong / $1,000 – $4,000 per home passed in Europe and North America). In the UK B4RN aims to charge £30 per month, while Hyoperoptic charges £50 for 1Gbps.

It’s further noted in the report that most of the offerings from current gigabit providers do not restrict subscriber usage, at least not via any specific caps, though some Traffic Management could still play a part as is normal for most ISPs. This makes some sense, why even advertise a 1Gbps service if you’re going to limit the data flow to the point of making it practically worthless. Gigabit subscribers also seem to spend an average of 8 hours online per day (normal average in the USA is 2.5 hours); that’s odd / either a lot of remote working, lack of sleep or somebody is unemployed.

Extract from the report

Most of the 2012 gigabit service offerings are symmetrical – 1 Gig down and 1 Gig up. The uplink speed and the price per megabit make current gigabit offerings highly competitive to traditional network operator service offerings. Large competitors limit the uplink to 150/35. Therefore, service providers to whom we’ve spoken have indicated they no issue attracting gigabit subscribers who want the best possible service.

But the report notes that it’s not all plain sailing and gigabit providers do face many problems, not least in having to build the network itself and to then meet the bandwidth usage requirements of their customers. But that’s only part of the problem.

Network Issues Affecting Gigabit Subscribers (report extract)

Subscribers who sign on for gigabit Service find that they must upgrade their home network and they have computer issues with the superfast speed. Most speed-testing web sites cannot measure gigabit speeds, so subscribers are at the mercy of their providers. (At present, most providers are measuring access speeds within their networks and are making sure to provide the full Gig-E capability to their customers.)

Home networking and computers are bottlenecks that require upgrading for the home to operate at gigabit speeds: computers require parameters to be reset and fine-tuned; only the latest in-home routers and Wi-Fi systems can support a gigabit of throughput; and many websites will limit the bandwidth of the connection and not provide gigabit access.

Many of the issues mentioned above have and continue to be experienced in the UK by consumers whom have moved onto the latest generation of superfast broadband packages, such as the 40Mbps+ services from BT and Virgin Media’s 50Mbps+ options. This is especially true for home wireless connectivity (wifi) but new technologies are already coming to solve that (WiGig etc.), so hopefully it should soon be less of a problem. In any case the vast vast majority of UK people can’t get 1Gbps yet and won’t for awhile (BT might eventually upgrade its FTTP solution to do 1Gbps but they’re in no rush).

In fairness it should be said that any such report prepared for the FTTHCouncil is likely to adopt a certain degree of bias towards related services, so we’re not surprised that the report is perhaps overly optimistic towards 1Gbps services. That said, gigabit services will eventually become a reality for all, it’s just a question of “when” and right now most consumers and ISPs in the UK would still struggle with the question of “why”.

FTTHCouncil Report – Gigabit Providers (PDF)

Leave a Comment
10 Responses
  1. Avatar Somerset

    If you install fibre the interfaces run at 1G, hence why there are 1G connections…

  2. Avatar New_Londoner

    Interesting to know what sort of backhaul capacity underpins the “1G” services, do any offer anything even close to that speed or are we really talking about psuedo 1G services with 1G sync speed and much more limited throughput? Would the new Ofcom rules permit them to be advertised as 1G in this country even if throughput is more akin to standard broadband offerings?

  3. Avatar Legolash2o

    I think 100Mbps is enough for anyone, only large business and enterprise would require 1Gbps.

  4. Avatar DTMark

    It just looks odd that there’s such a big jump from current connectivity speeds (a few meg ADSL, maybe 20 to 50 meg cable) up to 1Gbps but then that’s because a stop-gap network (like a phone network) isn’t playing a part any more and it’s fibre all the way. In that respect 1Gbps isn’t that high and we would expect to see some countries (the modern, forward thinking ones) with fibre networks by now.

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      Given your confident statement, I look forward to reading the annoucement that your company is able to fund a nationwide deployment of FTTP. When does this start?

  5. Avatar Ben

    Isn’t it all proportionate.

    If I’m downloading a 10GB file at 1.25MB/s (10Mb/s) I will be using 10Mb/s of bandwidth for two a bit hours.

    If I’m downloading a 10GB file at 125MB/s (1Gb/s) I will be using 1Gb/s of bandwidth for just over one minute.

    So although the backhaul will need to be able to take significantly high bandwidth I don’t think the effects would be noticed much since everything moves so quickly.

    Ten people downloading a 10GB file are likely to download at the same time if it takes 2 hours.

    Ten people downloading a 10GB file are less likely to download it at the same time in a 2 hour period if it only takes one minute to download.

    Therefore a 100x increase in speed (10Mb – 1000Mb) isn’t going to increase the need for bandwidth by 100x unless everyone tries to do something at once.

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      Fair point, but if I’ve only got say 1Gb backhaul it will be a limiting factor, assuming more than one person is active at a time.

  6. Avatar zemadeiran

    The last mile bandwidth issue is not the most important link in the chain nor are the data centers where servers live with the data you are after.

    The real bottleneck lies with the network routers and switches. Things start to slow down when you have to transform light pulses into electrons and vice verser.

    Those people up there whoever they be, are of course working on purely optical switches in order to speed things up exponentially.

    Just think back to SKY’s last north south fibber upgrade to 7tbps 🙂

    Upgrade those god damn switches and routers!!!!!!!!!

  7. Avatar SlowSomerset

    I would be happy to just get the up to 8Meg I am supposed to get oh well maybe one day Bt.

  8. Avatar Deduction

    Well said Ben and zemadeiran

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