Are we there yet? 5 milestones on the way to a UK gigabit society
Occasionally, a piece of obscure networking jargon manages to transcend beyond the clubby, technical confines of “those in the know”. You can’t enforce its adoption among mass market consumers – it just happens.
Take “gig”, for example. Rejoicing at getting a few extra gig a month, boasting about your gig capacity, reassuring someone that something will only be a couple of gig, needing a minimum number of gigs to get through the day; to an alien from Mars these might appear consistent with an intense drug addiction, and to a certain extent that assessment would be right. Consuming and transmitting data in Gigabyte chunks, preferably down a Gigabit pipe, has become a survival instinct for businesses and individuals alike.
It isn’t just in bus stops and conference rooms where gigs are discussed. Listen to the lofty corporate visions of top technology vendors and the aspirations of government policy makers and you’ll find Gigabit Cities and Gigabit Communities are firmly on the agenda. The broadest horizon of all is for a Gigabit Society – where ubiquitous Gigabit-capable infrastructure is benefiting every aspect of citizens’ lives – and the race is on to be the first nation on earth to live up to the name.
So how is the UK doing in the Gigabit Society stakes and what will it take to arrive at the ultimate destination? Here are five milestones that need to be passed before we get there.
1) A broad access technology mix – not just fibre-based
One school of thought is that the UK can only become a Gigabit Society if we focus all our efforts on a single technology like Fibre-to-the-Home and its fibre-based derivatives; the idea being that larger scale rollouts will reduce costs per subscriber and keep prices low for buyers. This will never work in reality, as there are optimum technologies for every use case. By supporting a multi-technology mix, all will continue to innovate and no-one need suffer the downside of a one-size-fits-all policy that ends up fitting no-one but a tiny minority. This approach will also stimulate the development of new technologies such as 5G which promises to be around 10 times faster that 4G and be able to support data rates of more than 1Gbps with ease.
Among the bodies supporting this view is ETNO, the European Telecom Network Operators association. Its latest research commissioned from Boston Consulting Group found that a European Gigabit Society could be reality in less than 10 years with a “technology inclusive” approach, rather than 30 years without it.
2) Positive economic impact
Sooner or later the argument for the Gigabit Society comes down to money. Any Gigabit-capable deployments – no matter how large or small – need to be generating demonstrable financial advantages for business else there is little point in them. This principle should govern priorities for where and how fast infrastructure and services can be provided, and encourage the competitive service provider market to outdo one another on the strength of their SLAs and the bottom-line benefits their offerings are proven to deliver.
3) Intelligent applications and solutions to support business
Following on from the milestone above, with business at the heart of the Gigabit Society the onus needs to fall upon organisations and their technology partners to create innovative applications and solutions that harness the power of the network. Connectivity itself is not enough. It’s not how big it is, it’s what you do with it!
Across business, all vertical sectors need to participate in Gigabit initiatives to derive maximum value and relevance. These will increasingly touch upon Internet of Things (IoT) projects, big data analytics, hybrid cloud and virtualisation opportunities and the challenges of achieving data management compliance appropriate to their industry.
4) Benefits for community and society
From the earliest days of the internet to the introduction of broadband services and now Gigabit Ethernet for all who want it – communications technology has long been identified as a tool for a more open, democratic, inclusive and equal society. Health, education, justice and public services should all be major beneficiaries of a new Gigabit Society, alongside the private businesses that fuel the economy and trade with the world.
Evolution along this path will not be without its risks, as extremist groups and cybercriminal syndicates continue to use new technology to expose any vulnerabilities they discover. A successful, progressive Gigabit Society will have security and resilience at its core.
5) Adoption counts for more than availability
Building a 100,000-seater stadium doesn’t mean you can fill it. Hence the final milestone is the acid test for any infrastructure programme: adoption. A Gigabit Society is not just somewhere that Gigabit Ethernet is available at every turn, but somewhere that everyone uses it to its fullest advantage. Essential to delivering this is a competitive market, regulated appropriately. Only then can innovation continuously develop with attractive pricing, easy migrations and installs, comprehensive SLA support and a list of compelling benefits for the short, medium and long term. It’s what Luminet has been doing for years!