We are about to enter a new era in entertainment and communications thanks to Gigabit speed broadband. While the smart home and IoT will spawn innovative services and applications that help to fill these pipes, CCTV security monitoring is their only bandwidth hog right now. The initial benefits that Gigabit broadband brings to these nascent markets is therefore lower latency and ultra reliability.
Today, the No.1 driver for Gigabit broadband speeds is video-centric entertainment and richer media. Sam Rosen, Managing Director and Vice President, Video, OTT and AR/VR (augmented / virtual reality) at ABI Research, identifies 4K video and VR in the consumer space and augmented reality in the workforce. “Downloaded services clearly benefit heavily from faster speeds, despite the predominance of streaming,” he adds.
The analyst firm CCS Insight has predicted that VR could be one of the most disruptive technologies for a decade, forecasting that more than 12 million virtual reality headsets will be sold next year. “Currently, gaming is the low-hanging fruit for VR devices but video, entertainment and user-generated content will also drive adoption of this technology,” the firm says.
In May the Finnish broadband provider DNA announced the launch of its next-generation fibre-optic network (DNA Valokuitu Plus), which will enable speeds of up to 1Gbps. The service is being made available to 300,000 households in the Helsinki region first and will be extended to 600,000 homes within a year. Today it is video entertainment that is driving the upgrade.
[quote]Today, the No.1 driver for Gigabit broadband speeds is video-centric entertainment and richer media[/quote]
DNA says a typical family of four in Finland already has 9-15 devices connected to the network and a spokesman says the figure is increasing. “Simultaneous usage of video services like YouTube, Netflix and our own TV-OTT service, Dna-TV, calls for more capacity.”
The highest speed available today with DNA is 350Mbps and the Gigabit service costs little more at EUR 49.90 per month. A spokesman points out: “We aim to provide customers with the best quality-price ratio and differentiate the fixed broadband from the mobile broadband speeds.”
Image provided by DNA
DNA is also testing 3Gbps on a live network in Helsinki using DOCSIS 3.1 and has declared that speeds of up to 10Gbps will be possible within just a few years using DNA Valokuitu Plus.
In Denmark, TDC started to offer Gigabit broadband on its HFC network in May, using DOCSIS 3.1 with a move from CMTS architecture to a distributed CCAP solution. The service is available to real customers thanks to cooperation with a small antenna association and 15% of customers should be using the new technology this year. The company predicts it will become the first in the world to upgrade an entire cable network for Gigabit speeds, hitting this target (and therefore its 1.4 million homes passed) by the end of 2017.
So what is driving demand for 1Gbps download speeds in Denmark? “Primarily video,” says Carsten Bryder, Director of Technology & Capacity at TDC. The average TDC home will do fine with around 100Mbps today, covering television and broadband requirements, but the arrival of 4K/UHD television, accelerated by major live sports events this summer, will drive the demand for higher speeds.
“When you download movies or software like Microsoft Office, the speeds are significantly faster with a 1Gbps connection, so the customer experience is better,” Bryder adds. “We plan to offer a 500Mbps upload solution. Lots of users in Denmark get their broadband via their employer and need cloud solutions for business.”
Being responsible for network capacity, Bryder admits that the thought of live streaming of 360 degree VR into the Facebook network makes him sweat! So Gigabit broadband is about future-proofing. “We want to build a 10-lane highway into the household so nobody has to think about capacity anymore,” he comments.
Charles Cheevers, CTO for Customer Premises Equipment at ARRIS, whose CCAP-based converged edge router and high-end DOCSIS 3.1 Wi-Fi modems are helping the push to Gigabit speeds, also highlights virtual reality as a driver for future broadband requirements. But the most pressing need is to handle multiple concurrent 4K video streams to different devices in the home, usually over Wi-Fi.
Available ‘burst speeds’ are particularly important when it comes to improving the user experience, Cheevers notes. This includes downloading media faster. And he warns that one of the current limitations to what consumers can suck from the broadband network – the Wi-Fi ingest capacity of handheld devices – will soon be removed as a new generation of notebooks and tablets, etc., with better antenna technology, penetrate the market. When they become commonplace, inferior in-home Wi-Fi networks will be exposed.
Cheevers highlights newspaper apps as another place where the user experience can be vastly improved. “Some newspapers today are loading their web pages with such high resolution photos that even with 100Mbps broadband and good Wi-Fi you still have to watch them rendering on the screen.”
In the U.S., Comcast has launched a fibre-based residential service called Gigabit Pro, offering symmetrical 2Gbps speeds, and this is now available to 18 million homes. The company is also running beta trials of Gigabit broadband using DOCSIS 3.1 in Atlanta and Nashville.
Trial users are characterised as early adopting, tech-savvy consumers who like to ‘play’ with the latest technology. They tend to use the latest software and Internet experiences. They include hobbyists like photographers, videographers and gamers. They include people who like the best of everything, whether it is their apartment, car or broadband. The Gigabit speeds are considered especially relevant to multi-generational Comcast households.
How service providers can own the Gigabit home
This story is an excerpt from the new Videonet report, ‘How service providers can own the Gigabit home’. It considers where the demand for Gigabit speeds is coming from, looks at the access network technologies needed to dramatically increase capacity, and investigates the technology needed to ensure the wireless home network does not become a bottleneck.
The report also investigates how service providers can ‘own’ the home in the Gigabit era – maintaining primacy within increasingly complex home networks characterised by third-party smart home / IoT services and retail brands who want their devices to ‘move in’.
The 5,000 word report includes original insights from ARRIS, TDC, DNA, ABI Research, Ovum, RDK Management, Celeno, SoftAtHome, Comcast, IHS Technology, Machina Research, MoCA, Nokia and ADB. Like all our reports, it is completely free and you can download it here.