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Gigabit: What Is It Good For?

Jason Meyers
9/5/2014
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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.)


Get the latest updates on the Gigabit Cities trend by visiting Light Reading's broadband/FTTx content channel.


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

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LightcoreGroup
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LightcoreGroup,
User Rank: Light Beer
9/23/2014 | 11:34:18 PM
Re: What's it good for?
Here are real life examples:

In Olds, Alberta, Canada - a rural community of 8K people and the economic, social, and education center for the surrounding 45K people in smaller communities and agriculture launched its Gigabit service in 2012 (I was the CEO).

A local engineering and fabrication business that had been expanding into 3D based business information modelling (BIM), which is becoming the standard for construction north america wide, was carrying a UBS stick back and forth to the nearest large center (Calgary) some 60 miles away, because the time it took to upload a single file of 100's in a package took upwards of hours.  They employeed ~30 people.  They were going to need to leave town just to stay in the exploding business of BIM.  They connected to O-NET and were able to upload a single file in less than 2 minutes.

That company had the ability to stay in the community, building on that new market segment, and to grow that skillset locally.

In another situation, a local bank was able to consolidate all of its traffic from its dozen or so branches into their new building in Olds, and in doing so, enabled high-value rental space that saw one business consolidate (housing group) and another (XaaS provider) move to town from Calgary into their building.  This bank has a significant amount of employees that commute to the community from surrouding towns, and driving up migration from those towns to Olds.

In another situation, a mulitnational pipline company was able to consoldiate all of its subsidiaries and branch office computers, systems, and services into their Olds HQ.  That means more jobs locally, more stability econnomically, and better overall economics.

The local computer service company was able to manage all three of its locations through it's Olds main storefront, allowing for cost savings that results in more money to spend on employees, which means better customer service, which translates in to more purchasing from happy customers.  This company also pivoted their business to help SMB's and enterprises through service contracts that they can manage better with the bandwidth between their stores and their customers servers (I personnally know that they have had their best year, ever).

All of these situations are actually all anchored on the opportunity made possible by the upload AND download speeds.

What's next?  Small and medium businesses will be able to lower their costs, hopefully hire more people, and make more money by using their increased bandwidth speed and stability to access cloud-based business suites.  That means less computer upgrade issues and better software support through SaaS-loving vendors (accountants, crm, pos, etc).

And interestingly, Olds wasn't an underserved market, it was just poorly served by the incumbants.

We need to remember that just because we can't fathom the truth, doens't mean it doesn't exist.
t.bogataj
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t.bogataj,
User Rank: Light Sabre
9/15/2014 | 2:54:47 AM
Don't you ever learn from past mistakes?
We witnessed similar debates decades ago. One of them is famous for Billy's final decision: "640 kilobytes of RAM will be enough forever and ever, Amen."

If you agree he was right, you can continue this fruitless debate. If in doubt, then recall the loop that Microsoft and Intel played for years: the more HW resources there are, the more of them SW will consume; repeat indefinitely. Today, it is the same with bandwidth and applications that use it.

In your opinion, just how much bandwidth will be enough, forever and ever, Amen? For the record, please -- so we can laugh at you a few years from now.

T.
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
9/9/2014 | 9:09:03 PM
Re: What's it good for?
But then you have security issue -- as Jennifer Lawrence will attest. 
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
9/9/2014 | 9:08:27 PM
Re: What's it good for?
Not a downer at all. Security needs to be built into services from the outset, not bolted on later. All the spam and security holes of the Internet should teach us that lesson. 
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
9/9/2014 | 9:06:42 PM
Re: What's it good for?
MarkC73 - Build the pipe and the apps will come? 

Possibly. 

Forgive me if I said this already, but I'm thinking back to the emergence of consumer broadband in the very late 90s. Back then there were some things you could do that required a lot of data, but only painfully. You could download a short video if you were willing to wait long enough, and from that state you could project downloading a whole TV episode or even a movie given a broadband connection. 

I'm wondering what there is that we can do today -- but only barely -- and painfully -- that might be easy given more bandwidth. 

I'm thinking mobile. Wireless dumb devices, where all the intelligence executes remotely and data is stored remotely. You can't do that now -- the mobile bandwidth and capacity isn't there. 

Does gigibit Internet help with that kind of thing?
Atlantis-dude
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Atlantis-dude,
User Rank: Light Sabre
9/9/2014 | 1:28:37 PM
Re: What's it good for?
Spot on. At most I would expect UHD media content creation companies that have cloud based dev infra to require such  connections. But there aren't many of them and they could do private cloud and use the WAN only for backup.
brooks7
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brooks7,
User Rank: Light Sabre
9/9/2014 | 11:28:26 AM
Re: What's it good for?
Dennis,

NY has such a campaign running now....and I would argue they are going for what we call Enterprises not SMBs.  The biggest thing they are running is property and income tax breaks for 10 years.  That generally targets manufacturers and the larger the better.  But yes, I agree.  Here in Sonoma County we have a thing called Sonoma County BEST which tries to attract companies.  But again, is the availability of high capacity networks going to really change the Opex/Capex dynamic at most companies? No.  That is why tax and other benefits weigh a lot more.  Now there are circumstances where companies could not move because of some network issues, but is that in the 80 or the 20?

seven

 
mendyk
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mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
9/9/2014 | 11:09:21 AM
Re: What's it good for?
There have been instances in which policymakers have created environments that encourage relocation of specific types of businesses. These usually depend on a number of factors, including available resources, significant financial incentives (i.e., huge tax breaks), availability of low-cost space, and the like. So any effort to attract businesses with gigabit networks would need to be part (and probably a smallish part) of a wider portfolio of incentives. Ultimately, we will have a ubiquitous gigabit access environment. But that will develop as the commercial opportunities for services requiring that capacity become stronger.
brooks7
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brooks7,
User Rank: Light Sabre
9/9/2014 | 10:58:34 AM
Re: What's it good for?
Dennis/Jason,

First off, I would argue strongly that locating the servers for a small SW Dev company on a premise is not a good idea.  You are much better off either hosting your own on 3rd party instances or by using one of the 3rd party SaaS instances.  You get huge benefits in HW maintenance and accessibility by not placing servers in a closet in some office you rent.  If you do that, now all we are talking about is User Access to the Archive.   In general, the only time that very high speed will be an issue is when you do a full checkout of a build into a local IDE.  You should be doing builds and storage out on the network anyway.

Which leads me to the second point.  SMBs will (in general) NOT relocate.  They typically have very important local/regional markets.  They might move to the next town over, but even that is a lot of work.  I have some friend who run a reasonable sized Web Marketing company (revenue of between $1M - $3M).  What made them move was getting out of one of their rental properties and into regular office space.  Neither of the offices (and this is a Web Marketing company) has a Gigabit Network.

Heck, I have friends who are working on augmented reality video for mobile apps and don't have a Gigabit network locally.  Heck they don't even have 100Mbps.  The key is to do the big stuff out of data centers, either private or virtual.  This is why I don't see these huge network deployments as long term GDP drivers.  Done right, they already exist inside AWS, Rackspace, Equinix and the like.

seven

 
Phil_Britt
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Phil_Britt,
User Rank: Light Sabre
9/9/2014 | 10:40:10 AM
only part of the story
While gigabit networks can help remove some bottlenecks, they mean little if the endpoints can't keep up. So the networks themselves have to push the top speeds as far as possible, continuing to expand the edge of the network. That can be a challenge because no one entity has quality control outside of the resources it owns (that's assuming quality control of its own resources is excellent).
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