We WANT it certainly, but why do we need it? On ConnectedPlanet, Rich Karpinski makes a compelling case that 1Gbps demonstrations like the one Google is trying to put together are basically irrelevant to the development of the internet. Amongst his points is this quote:
"Higher speeds aren’t a panacea in and of themselves. If bigger pipes just end up getting eaten up by HD, rather than regular resolution, video, have we really gained that much?"
And that, I think is a key insight to think about. Just what is it that 1Gbps enables us to do that creates the value to society that will justify (and pay for) the buildout?
The only existing applications that could conceivably use 1Gbps involve higher and higher resolutions of video traffic, whether in the form of movies or telepresence. I recall the 90s sitcom Home Improvement, where Tim 'the toolman' Taylor spends his time funneling more power into mundane tasks? Being able to deliver video reliably and in a useful form is certainly enabling - and 100Mbps will do that with ease. But just how much value does each further level of resolution generate? At what point are we simply doing mundane things with unnecessary firepower? I submit that we would reach the point of diminishing return very quickly, and that leaves us well below true need for 1Gbps.
The media blitz over insufficient broadband speeds is based on variations on the same theme: we're behind, we're losing the race, we will be at a competitive disadvantage if we don't catch up. In many ways, it sounds too much like the old 'keeping up with the Joneses' fallacy all over again. What's missing here is the next killer app - the Mosaic browser, the internet portal, the Google search, the YouTube. Something radically changes what the internet can DO for us, not simply how fast it can do it.
It's not simply watching TV and movies. That will move online of course, but it doesn't really change how we live - it just shifts it to a new medium and offers some new bells and whistles.
It's not cloud computing. Cloud computing is what will allow current infrastructure to scale in a manageable and affordable way for the next killer app, but it isn't the end result.
Telepresence? Not in its present corporate meeting format, which is a very interesting usage but of limited societal scope. But I think there is much greater potential down the line for the descendants of telepresence to change how people communicate both with each other and the world. When those make their way out of high tech corporate meeting rooms and into primary schools, hospitals, fraternity parties, and sporting venues - perhaps that's when 1Gbps to the home will come into its own.
Actually, maybe then we'll need more than that...
If you haven't already, please take our Reader Survey! Just 3 questions to help us better understand who is reading Telecom Ramblings so we can serve you better!Categories: Fiber optic cable · FTTH · Internet Traffic · Video