Several technology manufacturers, including Broadcom (whose chips you probably have in several devices around your home and office) are planning to release in 2015 chips for a new networking protocol called G.Fast which can push bandwidth transmissions on twisted-pair copper lines to near fiber-optic speeds of one gigabit per second. Throughout the US and many other developed nations with significant communication infrastructures, internet speeds aren’t limited by technology but by physical wiring. The most common form of internet service in the US, Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), is delivered via the same wires that provide basic telephone service, that were, up until now, limited in how fast they could transmit data mainly by what amounts to a simple (but hard to overcome) physics problem: copper wires are susceptible to radio-frequency interference from adjacent sources, including each of the strands in a single pair that delivers the signal.
What this means for you:
Don’t rush out to cancel your existing internet service. G.Fast isn’t expected to make an appearance until 2016 at the earliest, and providers will still have to grapple with an issue that they have faced many times in the past: the full, gigabit transmission speed of G.Fast is still limited by distance, with the last leg not exceeding about 160 meters before the speed drops off drastically. This means that ISPs will still need to install equipment proximate to residences and offices, something that is costly and time-consuming to execute, and very few ISPs (maybe with the exception of Google and their Fiber initiative) have demonstrated a willingness to pursue until they are forced to (see ATT’s GigaPower counter to Google Fiber). However, the fact that this technology can utilize existing wiring that is available in just about every building in the US means that getting to gigabit internet speeds might not require companies tearing up streets and hanging from telephone poles to string the more expensive cables needed for fiber-based solutions. And you can bet that companies like ATT and Verizon will seize on any opportunity to compete with Google, especially when they can spend less money to field a competitive solution.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net