What's a Gigabit Good For?

Eight weeks in to getting gigabit Internet service over fiber-to-the-home, I still can't answer that question.

July 1, 2015

3 Min Read
What's a Gigabit Good For?

Eight weeks into being a gigabit Internet service user, I can confidently say that… not a lot has changed. (See Geeking Out Over Gigabit.)

That's not to say I'm down on AT&T GigaPower as a service or that AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) as a service provider isn't delivering what they promised. In fact, with the exception of one notable hiccup (fiber-to-the-home is easy, local number portability is apparently hard), the transition from Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) Xfinity to AT&T GigaPower was quite smooth.

I got white glove treatment from my team of installers -- not terribly surprising since I was apparently customer number eight in Illinois. Plus, even when I got cranky about the voice line issues, AT&T's customer service reps were calmly professional -- even the one young man who tried to explain LNP to me and was promptly lectured as to what I was writing about when he was probably in grade school.

It's just that, it turns out my current needs don't really require gigabit speeds, or, at the very least, don't seem to take real advantage of that kind of bandwidth. Looking under the covers a bit, here's what I'm getting this morning:

Figure 1: AT&T Speed Test - Using WiFi

Of course, that's using WiFi, and as the only user in the home at the moment. By disabling WiFi and relying solely on an Ethernet connection, this is the bandwidth picture:

Figure 2: AT&T Speed Test - Using Ethernet

That's clearly not a full gigabit -- but 500-plus megabits ain't too shabby and it's within the terms of service, so I'm not complaining. I'm just not seeing any major change in how I am able to do my work or, for that matter, pursue various hobbies online. Like, today, tracking the NHL free agency scramble.

I accept the slightly slower speed that WiFi enables because, frankly, I can't tell the difference and the wireless connection is what enables my printer.

Read more about Gigabit Cities and the expansion of gig services in our Gigabit Cities section here on Light Reading.

The bottom line is that content downloads and even the performance of online videos on my laptop and even streamed Netflix content to a wide-screen HDTV hasn't noticeably changed since we upgraded to gigabit service. That's not just my opinion but that of other folks in the household.

That likely has nothing to do with our Internet service and all the world to do with our devices and their limitations.

So are we ready to switch back? Hardly. This service is rock-solid and costs (for now) the same as what I was paying Comcast for less-functional DVR and in-home WiFi and slower Internet speeds. But after some time passes, I might bite the bullet and downgrade our speed to save money. Of course, then I'd have to remove the "Guess what, I got a Gigabit" sign from my front window.

But if any of you have ideas as to how we could be making better use of FTTH and gigabit Internet, feel free to make suggestions… just keep 'em clean.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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