The need for speed in bandwidth country
Bandwidth is a bit like money. The more you have, the more you use it, the more you want it. As capacity has grown so have the demands of applications. Netflix, Skype, Amazon Prime, photo and video cloud storage apps, such as Dropbox and Google, and social media, such as Facebook and Twitter are all pushing the boundaries on data usage. What this means is that we rarely manage to keep up with demand. Small incremental increases in download and upload speeds just don’t cut it anymore.
The broadband market has needed a dramatic jump, an acceleration, to push its own boundaries for some time and the promise of ultrafast broadband has been in the air for a few years, especially with the pilots of Gfast technology. We’ve seen a number of controlled trials but now the roll out has accelerated, reaching over half a million premises with more than a million more expected during the course of the year. The target is 10 million by 2020.
Gfast broadband is certainly a leap forward in broadband capability and remains cost-effective by utilising existing copper infrastructure. It’s innovative and offering download speeds of up to 330Mbps (or 160Mbps depending on which product is chosen) and upload speeds of 30 to 50Mbps.
What this means is that businesses and consumers can take advantage of incredible speeds, which will for some time to come, put an end to bandwidth congestion. Imagine running 500 basic calls at 100kb each or around 100 premium/HD quality calls for business customers across one line, while also running streaming services and downloading video files.
Gfast will reduce average movie download times from around four minutes down to 40 to 50 seconds. As Uswitch’s download calculator shows, a 100Mbps can reduce the time taken to download a HD to two minutes compared with over 12 minutes with 16Mbps speeds. Gfast is offering speeds in excess of this so in fact you could have 4K TV running in every room of a house simultaneously and still not suffer any issues. Bandwidth-intensive services such as Ultra-HD 4k and 8k streaming and next-generation IPTV, advanced cloud-based storage, and communication via HD video will all be possible and existing downloads of all media will be reduced dramatically. We are talking in seconds, not minutes anymore.
As well as offering greater speeds, Gfast offers greater network resilience. It’s an enhanced product because it’s been built on a higher service level agreement and will provide a degree of future-proofing for at least five to ten years. That means there is enough bandwidth to nurture innovation in services without reducing network capability. That’s good for business, good for start-ups and also good for consumers of those services.
As more ‘pods’ come on line (Gfast booster cabinets in town and city streets), more premises will be connected. Gfast will in 2018 gain real momentum. New pilots have recently been announced and service providers are queuing up to offer Gfast services. According to a recent survey, 80 percent of providers will deploy Gfast services by the end of this year. While the survey also revealed that, unsurprisingly, faster speeds was the key reason for deployment, it also revealed other key objectives such as enabling 1Gbps broadband speeds (the target for 2021), lower cost than FTTP and enabling high speed broadband over existing infrastructure in difficult to deploy areas.
While technically dubbed a hybrid solution, practically Gfast is more than that. It offers providers opportunities to bolt on products and services not previously available in the majority of towns and cities. It has longevity too thanks to its capacity and robust network. Ultimately, if the UK is to remain at the forefront of digital innovation, it is essential. The challenge for the industry is ensuring it can now service and fulfil what will inevitably be a high demand.
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