Earlier this week, when I mentioned to an acquaintance that I work for Light Reading, he asked, "What do you know about this gigabyte network they're building around here?" He then turned to the person he was with and said, "That's, like, a thousand megabytes."
I didn't have time to correct him on mixing up bit and byte, because the conversation quickly moved to the inevitable question of "Why would anyone ever need that much bandwidth?" That led to the also-familiar discussion of Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) streaming speeds and the ability to download an entire movie in just a couple of minutes. (We have our priorities, after all.)
It was all a great reminder that this whole gigabit networks thing is such a new concept, especially to people who aren't working within the industry building those networks -- or, in our case here at Light Reading, talking to those people and writing about the trend every day. But the fact is that the growing Gigabit Cities movement promises to enable much, much more than just faster streaming and downloading.
Think about education, for one. Last week, Texas-based operator GVTC announced a contract to deploy gigabit connectivity to all the schools and facilities of an intermediate school district in its territory. The education realm offers myriad possibilities for gigabit-fueled applications, from streaming video in the classroom to remote connections to guest educators to the ever-increasing use of mobile devices as educational tools. (See GVTC Takes Gigabit to School.)
Gigabit networks can also play a major role in economic development -- and remember, it's not just big cities that are going to reap the gigabit benefits. Countless communities of all sizes are trying to attract the interest of small and mid-sized businesses, often by funding and building incubators in their towns. Gigabit connections (at a minimum) are going to be table stakes if you want a web design firm, app developer or other tech-based business to choose your hamlet for its headquarters. (See C Spire Goes Gigabit in Jackson and Comporium Aims Gig at Businesses, Residents.)
And, of course, there are all the in-home applications that gigabit connections provided by fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) networks offer (yes, including being able to stream, download and watch more TV shows and movies, faster). Calix Inc. (NYSE: CALX) highlighted the importance of that this week when it introduced a new gateway designed to help service providers better optimize gigabit networks inside homes via WiFi. (See Calix Pushes Gigabit Further Indoors.)
The relevance and application of gigabit networks doesn't stop there. There are countless opportunities in areas such as healthcare (I recently talked to a provider enabling tele-psychiatry as a way to more quickly assess and treat victims of traumatic brain injuries, for example) to financial services to even agriculture. Are there ways your company (or your community, your school district or your neighborhood) is creating or harnessing the power of gigabit networks, or planning to? Let me know at [email protected], or in the comments section below.
— Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Utility Communications/IoT, Light Reading