Some of us still remember the early days of home internet access in the 90s when access was a blistering 9600 bps, yes – that’s bits per second. It would have taken years to download enough data to fill today’s standard hard drives with information.
It’s incredible to think that in a relatively short space of time, technology has evolved to a point where consumers can fill that same hard drive in minutes. Forget bits per second and even megabits per second, we have shot straight to gigabits per second. So, while some networks are making a fuss about a 200Mbps connection they intend to launch in 2018, Cell C has been offering a 1Gbps service since 2017.
Streaming and downloading of home content works pretty well on connections of 20Mbps and the need for gigabit technology might seem far-fetched and only for the affluent home and small business owner operating from home. However, with the exponential growth rate of data consumption and the increased availability of services like 4K streaming and high-res gaming, it won’t be long before a gigabit connection becomes a household staple.
But what exactly can you use a gigabit services for, after all – at 100Mbps you are already seeing how slow the internet actually is. Cell C has a few use cases in mind that will make having a high-speed connection extremely valuable to the home user and that is why we have already invested in the gigabit connected technology.
Just take content and entertainment as an example. As we move into an age where the delivery of entertainment is becoming digitised and delivered through online channels, having the ability to watch more than one high-definition show or movie at a time will become a good reason to speed up home connections. Who wants to miss the football final, while your kids are watching the latest Pixar movie? On a gigabit connection you can stream, without buffering, at least five 1080p videos at the same time, with room to surf the web and download email.
The connected home and the Internet of Things is also a solid driver of bringing the gigabit connection into the home. People with high definition security cameras and connected appliances will need to increase their line-speeds to ensure that all these services work seamlessly, over and above the entertainment they consume. Analyst house Gartner predicts that by 2020, there will be more than 500 connected devices in any given home globally. Its these kinds of homes that will be adopters of the gigabit connection.
The healthcare industry is already looking at how it can make use of high-speed home connections. There are already devices available on the market that constantly monitor home care patients and use internet feedback to ensure that healthcare professionals are able to assist patients in need. Wearable sensors and video monitoring of patients is becoming a reality globally and all these devices need reliable high-speed data access to ensure that real-time monitoring happens efficiently.
And this ultimately bleeds into other areas of South Africa, because as home users take up these services more and more, prices will certainly start to come down. While there is already a drive to bring these connections to the poorer areas of our country, the take-up of the general consumer will make it cheaper and easier to deploy to those who could use it most. A gigabit connection in a school could mean that students could get access to some of the world’s top teachers, and learn from them in real time. Medicine too will be transformed, allowing real-time surgery to be streamed live from Johns Hopkins in Baltimore in the US to student doctors in rural hospitals.
So while this technology may seem like a distant dream, the reality is that it is on our doorstep; this is why a 200Mbps connection won’t cut it – homes will need at least a gigabit connection in future to keep apace with the accelerating growth of digital services.
By Junaid Munshi, Chief Commercial Officer at Cell C