High Speed Networks in 2016
Last year saw significant increases in smart homes and devices as the Internet of Things continued to grow. Along with video streaming, this has caused greater demand for high speed broadband and networking. We look at some developments in high speed networking coming in 2016.
Continuing on from 2015, this year will see further expansion of gigabit (1 Gbps) optical fiber networks across North America and more fierce competition between the major players, particularly in the United States.
Google Fiber started it all in Kansas City in 2012 and expanded to Provo, Utah and Austin, Texas. Coming up are medium-sized cities such as Atlanta, Nashville, San Antonio and Salt Lake City. The big news for 2016 is that Google Fiber is looking at adding the huge markets of Los Angeles and Chicago.
In these cities, the inexpensive Google Fiber will have to compete with AT&T’s Gigapower, which is also available in Miami, Dallas and Houston. It’s now expanding into San Francisco. More competition comes from the 2 Gbps offering from Comcast, called Gigabit Pro, available along the West Coast as well as all the cities with planned Google Fiber service. There’s also two of the largest fiber networks, Verizon FiOS, which covers 20 cities including New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Washington D.C., and CenturyLink’s fiber network, which connects most of the largest cities in the United States already.
In direct competition to fiber is DOCSIS 3.1, the latest iteration of the DOCSIS standard (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification), which is the method used to transmit data through cable TV connections. The new technology will allow cable companies to offer gigabit speeds over their existing broadband networks. Comcast successfully tested modems using the new specification in November and plans to offer gigabit service by the end of 2016. Version 3.1 is capable of delivering speeds of up to 10 Gbps downstream and 1 Gbps upstream.
The main advantage of this technology for cable companies is that it can be used with legacy cable networks simply by switching modems to the new specification. This saves having to replace infrastructure including all that copper cable. It can compete directly with fiber without the need for running expensive optical fiber cabling and all the associated construction and labor costs involved.
With Gigabit speed Internet becoming more available there is a need for higher speed wireless communications. TelecomsTech reports on an exciting new technology called LiFi. The system uses Visible Light Communications (VLC) from a light bulb to transmit data at 1 Gbps or around a hundred times faster than the latest WiFi technology.
Estonian startup Velmenni is the first to offer the service and is conducting pilot projects. According to TelecomsTech, the technology was invented at the University of Edinburgh where they managed to achieve speeds of up to 224 Gbps. The main advantages of LiFi, apart from the high speed, is that is it more secure than WiFi. As visible light cannot penetrate walls, floors and ceilings there is little risk of the signal being picked up by others and it is not susceptible to interference the way WiFi is.
Google claims two-thirds of the world’s population does not have Internet access, which presents a giant opportunity for ISPs. This is why Google is working on Project Loon – a planned network of high altitude balloons. The balloons will float on the edge of the atmosphere about 20 km above the Earth. They will position themselves by using wind currents, which are like layers in the stratosphere that travel in different directions. By ascending or descending the balloons can control the speed and direction they travel in.
Once the balloons are maneuvered into the right locations they can communicate with an area on the ground about 80 km in diameter using a technology called Long-Term Evolution (LTE). Then they can pass the signal between the networks of balloons and back down to Earth. Each balloon will stay in service for approximately 100 days and then return to the ground in a controlled descent.
Google has run tests in New Zealand and wants to expand the pilot to create a ring of balloons around the southern hemisphere. The current plan is to bring the service to Africa and other rural areas.