What will you be able to do with gigabit broadband? Watch 4K Netflix in three rooms at once? How about running your very own holodeck?
Gigabit broadband may seem like a distant dream for some and the benefits perhaps aren’t immediately obvious. Aside from letting us stream high definition media and work on bandwidth-intense applications at home, what else could we do?
According to a report by PewResearch, a subsidiary of US NGO the Pew Trusts, gigabit broadband could transform Skype into a more immersive telepresence-type service that wouldn’t look too dissimilar to the holodecks of the Star Trek universe.
The report gathers the musings of over 1,400 researchers, developers and telecoms policy experts
David Weinberger, a senior researcher at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society said: “There will be full, always-on, 360-degree environmental awareness, a semantic overlay on the real world, and full-presence massive open online courses.”
Weinberger quipped that Skype “won’t break up nearly as much,” presumably referring to the low latency afforded by a gigabit FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) broadband connection.
Kathryn Campbell, a partner with LA-based marketing firm Primitive Spark agreed, saying that ultrafast connections meant that Skype calls could resemble something akin to a virtual reality experience, instead of the 2D video calls we’re used to today.
“No question, bandwidth will play the same kind of transformational role in reshaping society that railroads and freeways played in our past,” said Campbell. “I am most excited about the potential for truly immersive entertainment and communications as bandwidth continues to explode.
“Games, films, shopping for cars and vacations, and of course porn will all become immersive 3D experiences. So will the 2025 version of that primitive tool that we call Skype today. Catching up with my sister in Papua New Guinea, will be almost like being there in a decade, or at least I earnestly hope so!”
‘In 2025, Skyping someone in Papua New Guinea will feel like being there.’ Improvements in education and healthcare could lead to increased or even constant documentation of people’s lives in an ‘always-on’ environment, expanding greatly on the fitness options that are currently offered by things like Apple Watch.
The report also suggests that changes will be gradual in the US, where setting up a nationwide gigabit network is not easy, due to the scale of the country.
For the same reasons, broadband upgrades in the UK is always going to take longer than other European countries with smaller landmasses, such as Denmark, Latvia and Malta.
When asked about how they think gigabit internet will change the world 86 per cent of the panelists said that killer apps would drive the biggest change – although no one made any real prediction about exact applications.
Lee Rainie, Pew’s director of Internet, science and technology research said: “It’s sort of a ‘Field of Dreams’ aspiration here. They’re not entirely clear what the killer apps might be, but there’s a very palpable sense in these answers that if it’s built, people will come to it, and the applications will find their way into this world.”
The report also explores some of the negative impacts of having gigabit broadband. Aaron Saunders, CEO of mobile app developer Clearly Innovative said that faster broadband connections are only likely to benefit affluent areas, while those with lower incomes won’t have a connection at all.
It’s something that London-based analysts Point Topic touched on with, arguing that building gigabit broadband networks is only one part of the battle – getting people to actually buy it and use it is another matter.
By 2017, 95 per cent of premises in the UK should be able to order superfast broadband. There’s currently no nationwide programme or policy in place to deliver gigabit broadband to every British doorstep, despite the wishful thinking of Labour party activists.
In the meantime, there are companies including Hyperoptic, CityFibre and Gigaclear who are getting on with setting up gigabit connections in various corners of the UK. Grassroots projects like B4RN and Fibre GarDen are either rolling out gigabit FTTP connections or are considering it.
BT the UK’s incumbent telco has shown its capable of delivering such services, but hasn’t hinted on when it might start doing so commercially. By 2025, the landscape of Broadband Britain could have changed dramatically.