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Next – Gen Broadband – Optimizing Your Current Broadband Connection (Part 3)

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Broadband of the future

To get a read on a broadband’ s future in the United States, we talked to a couple folks well versed on the subject: Patrick Moorhead, founder and principal analysts at Moor Insight and Strategy, and Dane Jasper, CEO of Sonic.net. When asked about which of the broadband technologies available in the United States will be the most pervasive moving forward, Moorhead said, “Wireless broadband will be the most pervasive in the future, given that it touches so many people in so many places. Wi-Fi wireless in particular will be expanded significantly as service providers attempt to string networks together to take some of the traffic off of congested 3G, 4G, and LTE networks. “He continued, “Cable is the winner in terms of the price to speed equation, in that most of the investment is a sunk cost. Fiber, as in Google Fiber, is the fastest, but also the costliest to install. Satellite will continue to play a niche toke, serving hard-to-reach and rural areas. Its asymmetry and line of site requirements outweigh any kind of downlink speed advantage”. Dane Jasper mostly agreed, stating, “Domestically, you will see a continued slow march of the incumbent duopoly; cable will gradually upgrade to higher DOCSIC versions as they become available and feasible, and will split nodes in the meanwhile to avoid congestion at least to the point of avoiding customer churn. Meanwhile, Telcos will push fiber closer to the home or, in the case of Verizon, all of the way while rolling out faster xDSL technologies: ADSL2+ and VDSL2 today, with bonding and then vectoring”. Jasper added, “Wireless is also a factor to consider. With LTE’s very high speed capabilities, and consumers’ interest in tablets and other portable devices, these services are a potential alternative to wireless products.”

All of the way while rolling out faster xdsl technologies: ADSL2+ and VDSL2 today, with bonding and then vectoring

All of the way while rolling out faster xDSL technologies: ADSL2+ and VDSL2 today, with bonding and then vectoring

We also asked what they thought pervasive, ultra-high-speed broadband could mean for consumers, and Moorhead proclaimed, “New usage models will emerge with the advent of fast, reliable broadband. With faster broadband, most of our computing can be done in the cloud, meaning more consistent, reliable, and less expensive experiences. Low-priced displays able to run any app will be all over the house, so literally, every room will enable access to every app and piece of content, anytime”. Sounds good to us, though we don’t want to downplay the need for fast local storage, as well.

As for why the United States tends to lag behind many other developed nations and what we could do to improve the situation, Dane Jasper put most of the blame on misguided government policies and regulation. He said, “Reversing the course selection of a multi-modal competitive model, which the Republican FCC charted for us in the early 2000s, is the quickest way to resolve the domestic broadband issue. Europe and Asia followed our regulatory course from the 1996 Telecom Act, ad stuck with it while in the United States we faltered, fostering instead a duopoly. While incumbent cable and Telcos have made substantial upgrade DOCSIS 3.0, FiOS, U-verse - we continue to overpay for under-delivery of speed, generally with consumption caps”. Patrick Moorhead’s view was somewhat different. Moorhead said, “Countries leapfrog each other as it relates to broadband. The United States was viewed as the mobile laggard during the EDGE days, but now has one of the top spots in LTE. Countries like Korea and Japan will continue to dominate with speeds, unless the US government would subsidize fiber rollout. Given the US budget challenges, I don’t see that happening, meaning the United States does not gain leadership footing in broadband”.

The need for speed

What is super high speed Internet good for, anyway?

In many circumstance, the benefits of an ultra-fast broadband connection may not be immediately apartment. There are other factors besides peak bandwidth that ultimately affect a user’s experience online and if you’re not using the bandwidth you already have available, upgrading to a faster plan isn’t going to make much difference. However, as our needs for more bandwidth increase, the benefits of some of the more advanced broadband technologies become clear.

As we start saving more data in the cloud, streaming more HD content, and increasing the number of connected devices in our homes, our bandwidth needs grow. Just a few years ago, having one or two PCs connected in a home was typical. Today, though, it’s not uncommon to find a dozen or more connected devices, when your account for smart appliances and televisions, mobile devices, game consoles, desktop systems, and laptops.

How much bandwidth you’ll require will obviously vary based on the usage habits of those in your household, but we can give you some rough guidelines and expectations. For example, let’s say you’ve got three users in your home. One is playing a game online, while the other two are streaming HD movies or television from a service like Netflix. For their highest quality streams, Netflix recommends a 5Mbps connection; a typical stream can consume about 2.3GB an hour. The gamer will use a minimal amount of bandwidth, but the two users streaming video will likely saturate a 10Mbps connection.

Netflix Goes Super with New 'Super HD' Streaming Option

Netflix Goes Super with New 'Super HD' Streaming Option

The speed differences between mainstream and high-end broadband plans are not trivial and neither is the cost. Actual differences will vary from provider to provider, but we’ll use Verizon FiOS as an example. A basic plan that offers 15Mbos down and 5Mbps up will run about $70 a month. Its flagship plan offers 300Mbps down and 65Mbos up, 20x and 13x increases in bandwidth, respectively, for $209 a month. If you can use that kind of bandwidth, the cost per megabit is much better with the high-end plan. To give an example of how those bandwidth ratings affect download speed, the 15Mbps plan can download a 5GB file on about 44 minutes. The 300Mbps plan can do it in 2.2 minutes.

Bandwidth caps

In an attempt to curb massive bandwidth consumption, some providers especially wireless providers have implemented bandwidth caps that kick in when consumption ticks past a certain level. For wireless providers, that number is usually in the 2GB - 4GB per month range, while Wireline providers like Comcast are in the 300GB per month range.

For wireless providers, that number is usually in the 2GB - 4GB per month range, while Wireline providers like Comcast are in the 300GB per month range.

For wireless providers, that number is usually in the 2GB - 4GB per month range, while Wireline providers like Comcast are in the 300GB per month range.

Some would argue that these caps are simply a tool to gouge consumers, while others claim it’s a means to ease network congestion. Sonic.net CEO Dane Jasper said this when asked about bandwidth caps, “I don’t see caps as being related to network capacity concerns. To put it simply, the heaviest user, when caped, will still use their service during peak/prime time, and network capacity must be built to accommodate the peak load. The sustained use that the heavy users would make is spread around the clock, and doesn’t have any substantial impact on capacity planning”. Whatever the case, if bandwidth caps become the norm, consumers could be in for significant cost increases in the future as our bandwidth needs increase.

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