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Ultra Broad Band: Coming Ready Or Not

EVEN if Australia has opted out of the NBN, it remains obvious where networks are going to in the future. Ultra broadband.

It’s always tough to talk about broadband with a straight face. Over-subscription and under investment in cable, fibre and wireless infrastructure by a whole ecosystem of ISPs means the majority of customers rarely get the services they pay for. But change is coming, regardless of the strictures of government and commercial expediency. 

There’s no doubt that more bandwidth is desirable – the more bandwidth, the more desirable. And that’s precisely what the propeller-heads at Google have come up with. Broadband so beamy it makes our defunct national broadband network look petite. 

A few weeks ago at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet conference, a Google executive spilled the beans on a new broadband technology that’s 10 times faster than the 1G solution the company provides for Kansas City. What’s more, his comments seemed to suggest the technology might leverage existing fibre infrastructure. 

According to Google CFO Patrick Pichette, this huge 10x speed increase was likely to take place naturally over the next decade and when asked why Google didn’t speed up the process to 3 years he said: “That’s what we are working on, there’s no need to wait”.

Sometimes in the swirl of technological evolution you lose context and in losing context you lose a sense of the power, the opportunity, the brilliance of our potential future. Weighed down by hardware deflation, shackled by the modest reality of existing income streams, it’s possible to lose the ability to accurately conceive the future. 

One of the nice things about technology is that its empirical basis allows predictions based on past performance and even if those predictions are not entirely accurate, they can tell us true things. While thinking about the history of our technology, I took a trawl through the product pages of SEN in 2003. It was mostly analogue cameras and early DVRs. Alarm systems were very basic. Access control systems were networked but interfaces were thorny to say the least.

But more importantly, mobile phones were basic by today’s standards, despite IBM’s invention of the smart phone back in 1997. Screens a decade ago were tiny. The first iPhone arrived in 2007 and the first iPad wasn’t released until the end of 2010. Android was born in 2008 but did not gain real traction until 2011 with the release of Gingerbread. 

The point of these observations is to highlight the very recent change in the way we all address technology and the enormous speeds with which major change has propagated through society. That I am tying our electronic security solutions to social change may seem unusual but the recent history of technical development in our industry shows this connection to be profound. 

Recently, we’ve talked about products like Google Nest, which allow homeowners to connect with smoke sensors and thermostats via smart phone apps. While these products are not particularly clever in terms of technical capability, it’s the fact people are buying them that’s of most interest to me. You can ‘Apple-ise’ a smoke sensor and people will love you for it. 

That leads us back to Google’s projected 10Gbps broadband within 3 years. Just to put that number into perspective, with a 5Mbps link, 2 hours of compressed 1080p would take about 5 minutes to download. At 1Gbps the same video would take 7 seconds to download. At 10Gbps, it’s .07 of a second. 

Also important is 4G LTE for mobile devices with its current 15Mbps download and 6Mbps upload. Available now from Telstra and increasingly available from Optus, enabling comms technologies are going to have a huge impact. No more QCIF at 4 frames per second. No more monochrome stills of alarm events that look like the creations of Year 7 art students. 

In the relatively near future, our systems are going start delivering more of their potential performance, not just to business customers with deep pockets, but to any consumer with a 4G modem. The word lateral seems inadequate to describe the nature of our future technologies. The word immersive does it better. 

By John Adams



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