Gigabit Cities

They Want Their Gigabit Now

Despite industry doubts about what broadband users will actually do with 1-Gig service once they have it, there is clearly a strong and growing clamor for the service by consumers.

In our latest Light Reading community poll, a solid majority of readers (58%) said consumers either see the need for gigabit capacity right now to manage their applications or think they will need it as soon as possible to prepare for what's coming down the road. With Gigabit Fever running higher than ever in broadband circles and a number of major telcos and cable operators now rolling out 1Gbit/s and even 2Gbit/s downstream service, less than 40% of respondents said there's not enough consumer need or demand to provide such blazing-fast service today. (See Comcast Targets 6 New Gigabit Markets.)

Breaking down the poll results further, more than a quarter (28%) of respondents said 1Gbit/s capacity is needed now to handle multiple bandwidth-hungry apps. That view clashes with the thinking of many broadband industry experts, who say that most consumers don't need more than 100 Mbit/s at home to manage all their online services and apps.

A slightly greater percentage of survey respondents, about 30%, said 1-Gig service is worth getting as soon as possible to be ready for more demanding apps. That thinking indicates that many expect broadband providers to develop and deploy gigabit-caliber services and apps sooner rather than later.

Of course, not everybody is quite convinced that the much-heralded Gigabit Era need start just yet. More than a quarter of respondents (26%) said consumers won't need gigabit service for a few years yet. Another 9% said no one will need 1-Gig service in the next decade. And about 4% said no one will ever really need a gigabit broadband connection. So there are still plenty of skeptics out there. (See Consumers Largely Ignorant About Gig Internet, Says Pivot.)

Regardless of one's views on the need for gigabit broadband, the subject is clearly a hot one. In the three weeks that the poll ran on our home page, it drew responses from more than 1,000 readers, matching polls that have run four weeks or longer.

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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mendyk 6/5/2015 | 3:43:12 PM
Re: "Want" and "Need" More is always better -- unless "more" has a higher price tag. The consumer broadband market right now is a chaotic mess, thanks in no small part to using labels like "gigabit" to market to people who wouldn't know a gigabit from a yellow turnip. But that's the essence of marketing -- selling stuff to people who don't need it. Meanwhile, the operators who are all making promises of bright, shiny broadband services get lower and lower marks for customer satisfaction, even as they all pay lip service to improving customer experience.
Duh! 6/3/2015 | 11:48:26 AM
"Want" and "Need" I am one of those "skeptics" and stand behind that view.

The question was posed as a need, not a want.  As in, "I need a car to get to work".  "I want a BMW, because of the status and identity it confers". 
One is about substance, the other about image. 

USIgnite notwithstanding, there is still no such thing as a consumer "Gigabit application" (other than Speedtest).  Such a beast would need to generate an order of magnitude more data than the most demanding current consumer applications.  The law of diminishing returns apparently starts to kick in at tens of Mbits/s.  People will not perceive a difference between a download completed in 100 ms and the same download completed in 10 ms.  Even if the consumer market adopts 4k resolution (and there are some who argue that dynamic range needs to be improved, rather than resolution ) we're still talking about 15 Mbit/s with HEVC.

There is a fair argument for Gbit/s line rates: at those kinds of rates, serialization delay becomes insignificant relative to prop delay.  But that benefit is realized whether the service is shaped to 5 Mbit/s or 1 Gbit/s.

There is another argument that conflates Gigabit rates with FTTH infrastructure.  Operators can no longer buy FTTH OLTs and ONTs at less than 1Gbit/s; marginal cost of GEPON or GPON over BPON is negligible.  FTTH infrastructure is a good in its own right. Thus, transitively, 1Gbit/s is a good.  Sloppy logic, but it works for the marketers.

But this is an engineer's view.  Shaped through the lens of marketing and perception, it really doesn't matter.  It just means that lots of consumers end up with far more capacity than they can actually use.  And that operators have a shiny catchphrase to wrap around a new infrastructure builds. 

At least there is tactile pleasure in driving a BMW on an open roadway.

DHagar 6/2/2015 | 1:34:50 PM
Re: Price-- MarkC73, there you go, just because people have the added speed and capacity doesn't mean they know how to use it.

Maybe we need a scaling system so that people will get a better sense of where they are relative to capacity and gain a little perspsective?  (Probably wishful thinking!)
KBode 6/2/2015 | 11:01:54 AM
Re: Price--- There's been a push afoot at the FCC to require something akin to a nutrition label for broadband connections since at least 2010, but I've yet to see it get anywhere. I agree it would be nice to see better data collection on jitter, latency and interconnection-related performance by ISP as well. 
brooks7 6/2/2015 | 10:03:21 AM
Re: Price--- Kb,

I agree.

Part of the transparency that we want should include things like jitter and latency measures as well as maximum engineered oversubscription.


KBode 6/2/2015 | 8:35:05 AM
Re: Price--- It would be very nice to see the conversation shift from overall speed that users may not use (as long as an area is able to get 50 to 100 Mbps) and toward price, interconnection, and overall connection quality.
MarkC73 6/1/2015 | 10:28:41 PM
Re: Price...

Yup had someone not technical tested their 300mbs service with wifi (and not ac) they were disappointed when they got less than a 100 mbps, we asked them to wire it to the modem to test again, they said 'but my computer is new'. 

However, I'm more afraid of the people who do buy the service and use it to it's full capacity.  There's a few that have legitimate use for large data transfers working from home.  For normal users, I'm not too concerned even if there's a spike in the beginning there's only so much consumption that can happen at the moment.  Meaning that sure you'll down load lots of stuff fast in the beginning but soon you'll be back to your normal consumption as there's only so much content out there.  Now agreeably there's a rise of usage on the average per user.  But then why would you buy more bandwidth if you're not planning to use it?

DHagar 6/1/2015 | 10:11:36 PM
Re: Price--- I vote for that, KBode.  It's amazing how little people understand but think they need or that they are losing out.  The industry is doing a great job selling capacity; just as they earlier did with computer capacity that no one came close to using.
brooks7 6/1/2015 | 9:31:02 PM
Re: Price... Yeah we mostly stream video to our PS/3 over WiFi.  Not much that getting Gigabit service is going to help there.  WiFi sorta limits it.



marjsdad 6/1/2015 | 1:52:35 PM
Gigabit or not I think a fair number of people think that buffering will disappear with gigabit service, when in reality a lot of buffering has to do with the apps themselves and non-last-mile congestion happening upstream in the network. Those people will be very disappointed.
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