It’s no secret that speedy internet connections are key to some of the internet’s most-loved functions – like streaming video and online games. To make sure everyone can access it, governments are trying to put in glass fibre cable connections. But not everyone might benefit immediately.
What’s clear is that the flood of data online – from video on demand to shared vacation pictures – is not going to slack off. A lot of users are finding that the old copper cables that serve their homes are no longer up to the task. But it could be a long time before everyone has access to fibre optic cables.
These glass fibres are supposed to allow huge amounts of data to flow without interruptions. “But the speed customers get from fibre optic cables depends upon the point up to which the cables are laid,” explains Rafaela Moehl, spokeswoman with the German consumer service Teltarif. In many cases, fibre optic cables are laid to the end of a street, while the last few yards are supported with standard copper cable. That means customers get a service comparable to VDSL speeds.
Industry officials say the fibre optic cables should provide speeds of up to 100 megabits per second (MBit/s) for uploads and even 200 MBit/s for downloads. That compares to 25 to 50 MBit/s for VDSL connections. That’s because, unlike with copper cables, the data is not transmitted via electrical pulses, but with the aid of light signals. Even over long distances, the quality of these lightwave riders don’t degrade, as they might on a copper connection.
Video files will soon make up 80 per cent of data transferred online, says Hannes Schwaderer, a manager with Intel and president of Initiative D21. Everyday services like telemedicine and energy, power and water networks will be digitalized, adding to the push for more capacity, regardless of where one lives.
There are options besides fibre optics, says Schwaderer. After all, those require investments in the billions of euros. And a study by consultant Deloitte says that, so far, interest by customers in fibre optics is relatively low. “But you usually get an appetite when you eat,” says Schwaderer, noting that people with HD televisions, those who want to watch 3D films online, or others who want to benefit from telemedicine in rural areas will quickly come to enjoy faster speeds.
But not everyone will feel the need for speed. If you’re just going to surf a little, email and watch a video now and again, a connection of six to 16 MBit/s will suffice, says Moehl. Users only need access at 25 MBit/s or more if they’re trying to watch HD movies online.
“You should really consider whether the extra cost for high-speed is worth it,” she notes. Another option is to check with cable TV providers, who often offer speeds of up to 120 MBit/s.