We are consuming huge amounts of bandwidth daily. Just 10 years ago I would have been thrilled with a 4Mb down 512Kb up connection. Today that’s just so-so when it comes to broadband. Downloading video, music, or whatever, is consuming massive amounts of bandwidth and communications companies are working hard to keep up. It’s only going to get more crowded on our current system.
Fiber optics is the big thing for moving large amounts of data around. After all, there isn’t anything that is faster than light (without getting into Quantum physics…). The internet’s current speed woes comes from routing information to its various destinations, not transporting it.
Fiber optics still relies on regular routers to relay information to its correct destination. Where fiber optics can handle frequencies in the terahertz range, electronics work on the gigahertz range. Those pulses of light have to be converted into electrical signals, which are stored, routed, and turned back into optical signals with lasers to be transmitted on. The conversion, besides adding significant cost and complexity, it slows down the data transmission.
So the simple thing to do is to slow light down and remove the needed conversion process. I can hear Han Solo now, “Slow down light speed? Not on this ship brother.”
That is just what researchers are trying to do using "metamaterials". If they can slow down light during the switching process, there would be no need for the electrical conversion step. It could be a first step into building a light based computer.
You can catch the whole article on the BBC website here.
eWeekbrings two pieces of sobering news on the broadband front to our attention this week: much slower median speeds than other advanced nations, and a big shortfall in new customers.
The US may think of itself as a broadband leader, but that's a perception that doesn't fit the facts, suggests a new report from the Communication Workers of America (link in PDF format). Their SpeedMatters.org website offers a free upload/download test, and the data from that test was used to compare US broadband speeds with typical speeds for other countries. According to SpeedMatters, the US is 15th in the world in broadband speed, with a median speed of 2.3Mbps, compared to world leader Japan at 63Mbps, South Korea at 49Mbps, Finland at 21Mbps, France at 17Mbps, and even Canada at 7.6Mbps. Median upload speed in the US is just 435Kbps (corrected 8-15-08).
Don't blame me, by the way. I use Insight's 10.0 (10Mbps) broadband service, and the SpeedMatters test clocked my download speed at 9347Kbps, and my upload speed at 952Kbps, both very close to the rated maximum. The problem is that 10Mbps or faster speeds (Insight also offers 20Mbps service at an extra charge) are not typical in today's marketplace.
To learn more about why the US is sucking wind in the Broadband Olympics, and what's happening to new broadband customer demand, catch us after the break.
Are you ready to fly the Wi-Fi friendly skies? Wireless has been on flyers’ wish lists for some time now and usually it was a luxury class only item. Delta is set to grant that wish to its flyers and is offering broadband to all its customers.
That will make it the only major U.S. airline to offer broadband Wi-Fi access on its entire domestic fleet. Alas, the best things in life aren’t free and if you want to take your allotment of the internet nirvana in flight, it will cost you a flat fee of $9.95 on flights of three hours or less and $12.95 on flights lasting more than three hours.
Delta is partnering with Aircell to offer the service, which will be branded as "Gogo".
Gogo will be offered initially on Delta’s fleet of 133 MD88/90 aircraft and will expand to the remaining domestic fleet of more than 200 Boeing 737, 757 and 767-300 aircraft throughout the first half of 2009. The airline expects to have more than 330 aircraft complete by summer 2009.
Richard Anderson, Delta’s chief executive officer says, "Delta remains committed to providing a travel experience that maximizes the time our customers spend with us onboard by offering them even more productivity options. Our customers asked for in-flight connectivity, and we’re responding by rolling out the most extensive Wi-Fi network in the sky. Beginning this fall, our passengers will have the ability to stay connected when they travel with us throughout the continental U.S."
What do you think? Would the ability to make in flight use of broadband have you hopping on a Delta flight versus another carrier?
A decade ago, owning a 56K V.92 PCI modem used to mean you were the baddest Netizen on the block, but now it's just lame. Even Aunt Mabel has a broadband connection, and according to a new Gartner study, so will 77 percent of U.S. households by 2012. That only leaves 23 percent still living in the digital Stone Age.
Today just over half of all U.S. households surf at high speed, but Gartner expects that number to jump significantly in the next three years. According to Amanda Sabia, a Gartner principal research analyst, one of the biggest factors in the broadband adoption rate will be 4G wireless services like WiMAX, Long Term Evolution, and others that are expected to launch in the coming years.
Broadband also looks to do well worldwide, where 60 percent of the population in 17 countries will have high speed connections in 2012, whereas only 5 countries could make that same claim in 2007. Leading the way is South Korea, who is expected to jump from 93 percent to 97 percent of households having a broadband subscription in 2012. Gnarly.
Although more than half of American homes now use broadband, compared to just 10% using dial-up, a new Pew survey suggests that more than half of current dial-up users aren't in any hurry to move to broadband. However, you might be surprised to learn how many former online users are no longer connected at home, and how a lot of "non-connected" users can actually get online - for free.
Internet for Everyone is a new public interest group pushing for universal broadband access in the United States that launched last week. Their goal is to “make sure every American can benefit from the new economy and guarantee all citizens play an active role in our democracy, our nation must embark on a national campaign to connect every American to a fast, affordable and open Internet.”
This is a laudable goal, one that I heartily agree with, but one that is not as easy to obtain as it sounds. The profit margins are thin in broadband. Other countries are beating out the US on broadband market penetration because their governments invest heavily in their broadband infrastructure and do not heavily regulate broadband resources.
If you happen to be in one of the 16 U.S. states (and possible 10 million mostly suburban homes) where Verizon provides their fiber optic FiOS service, data will soon be moving at 50 megabits per second downstream and 20 mb/s upstream -- up from its former 30/15). Verizon Chief Operating Officer Denny Strigl says the 100-megabit home , will be a reality faster than anybody thinks.
If right about now, you're starting to feel a little green, like one of those Slowsky turtles with DSL of 1.5 mb/s or something even slower (yikes!), you might feel surprised to learn that 100 mb/sec consumer broadband is already common in Sweeden, Denmark, Japan and elsewhere in the world.
Federal Communications Commission Chair Kevin Martin's quest for a free, wireless, national broadband service for the people has taken a new turn. On the surface it sounds good, they did say “free” after all. That is free in the monetary sense, not in the free thinking, freedom loving sense. Of course I can hear my economics Professor shrieking “TINSTAAFL” (There Is No Such Thing As A Free Lunch) at me now in her high pitched voice. Oh, the horrors of college. Of course the American people would have to pay for this in one of the many taxes we now enjoy paying, or maybe we get the pleasure of a nice new tax somewhere.