Early Adopters Reveal What They Do With a Gig

  • Broadband Penetration
  • FTTH
WASHINGTON - Early adopters of gigabit fiber optic services are online for three times the daily average of Internet users and tend to have relatively complex home networks that support five or more devices, according to a study released by the Fiber-to-the-Home Council Americas.

The report, provided to the Council by Telecom Thinktank and RVA LLC, offers a glimpse into the small but growing community of gigabit Internet users who receive services from one of more than a dozen telecoms that now offer residential gigabit service in locations throughout the world. Gigabit subscribers were surveyed to determine their motivations and find out how they use ultra-high-speed broadband access.

Residential Gig Users a New Phenomenon
Individual subscribers connected at gigabit speeds constitute a relatively new phenomenon - the service was first introduced on a large scale by Hong Kong Broadband in 2010. Since then, the number of telecom providers that offer gigabit service has grown rapidly. Gigabit providers include mostly small-footprint operators that serve densely populated areas, along with a few rural telecoms that use their fiber infrastructure to attract new business and to bring their rural populations into the information age.

Among the network operators now offering gigabit service to homes in the United States are EPB in Chattanooga, Tenn.; Paxio and Sonic.net in California; and LUS Fiber in Louisiana. Early gigabit providers in other regions of the world include Telia in Sweden, ZON in Portugal, Turkcell Superonline in Turkey and NTT and KDDI in Japan.

Most of the 2012 gigabit service offerings are symmetrical, with both upload and download clocking in at a full gigabit per second.

The total number of residential subscribers receiving gigabit service is estimated to be in the hundreds today, but the report authors expect the number to grow significantly over the next year as large, gigabit-enabled FTTH services are rolled out in South Korea and Singapore and by Google in Kansas City in the United States. RVA estimates that 20 more small, U.S.-based FTTH providers, including municipal and competitive networks and some small local phone companies, are currently rolling out gigabit service offerings.

Gig Providers Are Competitive, Gig Users Are Creative
In their user survey, Telecom Thinktank and RVA found that the current crop of gigabit subscribers are:

• Online an average of 8 hours per day, compared with the U.S. Internet user average of 2.5 hours per day.

• The "earliest of early adopters," with relatively complex home networks that consist of five or more network devices. In the U.S., 12 percent of gigabit users had 10 or more networked devices in their homes.

• Content creators, as Hong Kong Broadband's traffic measurements show its gigabit subscribers using three times more upload bandwidth than download bandwidth. Upload speed is critical for distributing HD photos and videos, efficient "cloud computing" and virtual presence videoconferencing.

"Essentially, this study confirmed what one might expect - that those who subscribe to gigabit services have multiple applications in play at all times, including social networking, HD downloads, and streaming media via Netflix, Hulu and other sources, all while they participate in several multiplayer online games through multiple consoles," says Heather Burnett Gold, president of the FTTH Council Americas.

"But what many people might not expect is that gigabit service is already available in a number of locations throughout the world, that more gigabit FTTH networks are presently coming online and that the number of gigabit subscribers is likely to grow significantly over the next couple of years," she adds.

The report found that most of the telecoms providing gigabit service are doing so to establish themselves as the undisputed market leaders in bandwidth and connectivity and to enable them to offer ultra-low latency and bundle values to technophiles and high-bandwidth users that require large pipes to support multiple devices and services. Network operators also cited the appeal of superfast connectivity to work-at-home professionals who need low latency and rapid file transfers.

Pricing for gigabit service ranges from a low of $26 per month from Hong Kong Broadband to a high of $560 per month at network operator Turkcell. None of the network operators that provide gigabit service was found to cap subscriber bandwidth usage.

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