In one sense, Google Fiber was a breakthrough, offering a symmetrical gigabit service for $70 a month. But scale matters in telecom.
So, in a flash, and despite all skepticism, the U.S. high speed Internet access business is about to enter a period of abundance.
Comcast is upgrading virtually its entire customer base–21 million homes–to gigabit speeds by the end of 2015, with 18 million homes able to buy service at 2 Gbps, also by the end of 2015. That is 21 million U.S. homes.
So a relative trickle of neighborhood level investments now will be massively disrupted, in one move, by the biggest supplier of high speed access in the United States.
Other Internet service providers will have to respond, even if they elect to upgrade at lower levels. But that is not all.
Consider what already is envisioned for fifth generation mobile networks:
bandwidth of up to 10 Gbps per device or per user
latency of one millisecond
seamless ability to use any available access network
bandwidth 1,000 times greater than 4G
Some might gasp at predictions the coming fifth generation mobile network standard (5G) will feature bandwidths up to 1,000 times greater than today’s mobile networks.
But that three orders of magnitude leap–by perhaps 2020–is coming. And consider the irony: if 2 Gbps is the fixed network standard, for the first time ever, mobile network bandwidth will be five times greater.
That has never happened before. As many forecasts for fixed network bandwidth suggest a very widespread gigabit capability is coming, use of millimeter frequencies and small cell architectures will underpin the 5G 10 Gbps standard.
Even if the first versions of 5G routinely deliver only a gigabit, the implications are quite substantial. For the first time, mobile Internet access headline speeds will equal fixed network speeds.
So one big implication is that bandwidth abundance is coming. Even if no present user requires a gigabit, local access bandwidth will cease to be a constraint for Internet experiences.
That era of abundance also will reveal new bottlenecks, however.
In fact, latency is going to leap to the top of problems affecting end user experience.
That means we will be turning attention back towards the edge of the network, as that is one way to reduce the latency of cloud-based services.
But the key change, in 2015, is that Internet access abundance is going to become a reality shortly, with all sorts of expected, and likely unexpected, implications for everyone in the ecosystem.
Some platforms will be unable to keep up. One thinks of satellite and fixed wireless, for example.
Mobile access will become a full substitute for fixed access for the first time.
The end user estimation of price-value relationships is going to evolve. Price per bit is going to plummet.
Internet service provider profit margins will be under pressure. App providers will not have to worry about bandwidth constraints.
Nokia Networks has shown the ability to transmit mobile signals at 10 Gbps peak rates over the air at 73 GHz using Nokia mmWave gear at the Brooklyn 5G Summit, jointly organized by Nokia Networks and NYU.
NTT Docomo and Nokia Networks earlier had shown the ability to transmit at 2 Gbps rates in the 70 GHZ band, using Nokia Networks mmWave technology, in an indoor setting.
“Utilizing higher frequency bands including millimeter wave is key to deliver extremely high performance in 5G,” said Seizo Onoe, NTT DOCOMO CTO. “We believe that high-frequency spectrum shall be used not just for small cells as a means to complement the existing network, but also for building solid area coverage through coordination with existing lower frequency bands.”
Of all the potential changes, the equivalence of mobile and fixed access, in terms of headline speed, will be most significant, early on.
As mobile became a full equivalent of fixed voice service, with the added benefit of mobility and text messaging, so it is conceivable that the entire value proposition for fixed networks could be devalued.
A business with lots of business challenges could become even more challenged, in that respect. A change in primary value is likely to occur, as a result. Fixed access will evolve to support the applications where it has an advantage, such as bulk data backhaul, support for small cells or heavy linear video consumption.
Abundance often creates many new advantages and problems. So it will be for ISPs, cable companies, telcos, satellite and fixed wireless providers.