IoT Strategy

8 Future Uses for Gigabit-speed Broadband in the Home

by Brett Sappington | Oct. 12, 2016

As operators have weighed investment in fiber or network upgrades and as competitors have announced plans for gigabit-speed services, many broadband providers have questioned the need among today’s consumers for broadband speeds of 1 Gbps or more. Parks Associates research shows that in general, consumers in U.S. broadband households are unaware of their broadband speeds; another 27% feel that their current broadband speed is faster or much faster than they need.

In reality, no single consumer application or use case is driving demand for, or interest in, gigabit-speed broadband service offerings today. However, a number of motivators are encouraging adoption:

  • Gbps service can eliminate most congestion-related performance issues
  • Consumers perceive the value proposition to be compelling
  • Early adopters and technophiles are compelled by vanity purchases
  • Consumers want more-than-enough bandwidth for concurrent sessions for digital media

The greatest value to the consumer of a gigabit-speed service is in the potential future of data use within the home. Each of the following areas is expected to drive significant volumes of data in the home within the next five to ten years.

Area 1:  IP-based, Unicast Video

The future of video services increasingly looks to be IP-based, over both managed and unmanaged networks. Delivery of IP-based pay TV services with hundreds of linear channels requires a substantial data load, but unicast delivery places a unique stress on IP networks. Time shifted or on-demand video represents over half of video consumed on the television, and the majority of video consumed on computers or mobile devices. The volume of unicast video traffic will continue to increase and drive much of the demand for high speed services.

Area 2:  A Video-centric World

An increasing number of devices today are equipped with cameras and data connections to stream video or to quickly transfer video recordings. Skype and Facetime have become mainstream applications used by millions. A growing number of social media services such as Snapchat have gained popularity and use among consumers. New applications such as Periscope and Meerkat are emerging daily, facilitating the distribution and consumption of user-created video. Gigabit-speed services and improved camera technology will allow streams of significantly higher video quality than currently available today, which will further drive interest and use among consumers.

Area 3: The Connected Home

The future connected home will have dozens, even hundreds, of sensors gathering data regarding the environment, security, safety, and health, among other things, and each will create a tiny stream of data. Even aggregated, the data volume will be a small but ever-present background layer of data flowing throughout the home and to cloud-based services that monitor activity. In-home video cameras, used primarily for surveillance and security monitoring, hold the potential for massive data volumes. With gigabit-speed connections, security systems can include multiple in-home security cameras that capture high-resolution video and store it in the cloud.

Area 4:  Cloud-based Functionality for Connected Devices

An ongoing trend in connected devices is the use of cloud-based back end systems to complement hardware products or to virtualize device features. Leveraging cloud-based services and resources allows connected devices to provide capabilities beyond what is available from the physical device alone.

An increasing number of users perform functions via cloud-based systems, including storage, processing, media streaming, user interface, content or app discovery, personalization, and analytics. Today, vendors provide cloud-based enabling technologies for voice recognition, content delivery, remote management, and other functions critical to the management and monetization of the user experience. Some features, such as monitoring or voice-based controls, require these devices to always be on and connected in order to function properly. With the number of in-home devices increasing, the amount of data traffic from virtualized features will similarly increase.

Area 5: 4K and Other High Bandwidth Content

Though 4K/UltraHD televisions have yet to reach mass market penetration levels, adoption is increasing, particularly for displays of 55 inches or greater. Gigabit-speed services provide the necessary bandwidth for high quality video for 4K, 8K, or greater resolution and to multiple televisions in the home.

Virtual reality, streamed video game services, and other future entertainment options will also require high bandwidth/high performance connections for a quality experience.

Area 6:  Offline Media Consumption Models

Offline consumption of digital video relies heavily upon bandwidth speed in order for the download-to-go experience to be palatable to consumers. With gigabit-per-second connection speeds, consumers can quickly download multiple TV programs and movies to mobile or portable devices for offline viewing. Moreover, high-speed connections could make cloud-based collections of content more attractive, since the connection speed will allow rapid transfer of large files.

Area 7:  On-demand Software/Applications

The ability to rapidly download large files allows greater flexibility in applications as well. At Gbps speeds, users can download and install large applications quickly, making use of applications on computers or laptops more like the mobile app experience. Software companies will be able to update even the largest applications without degrading the available bandwidth. At the same time, cloud-based software or features could operate more like locally installed software.

Area 8:  Greater Degree of Personalization

Current personalization of connected experiences is fairly limited, primarily focusing on discovery, the look and feel of the interface, configuration, or selected preferences for information or services received. In most cases, this level of personalization is tied to a household, device, or particular service (such as Netflix). Adequate bandwidth can allow for improved communication and use of data and analytics, allowing for enhanced profiles or differentiated individual experiences. Personalization profiles and tools could also reside in the cloud, allowing the consumers’ experiences to follow them.

These examples are just a sampling of potential use cases for Gbps broadband speeds. Industry executives emphasize that some of the applications for use of high-speed broadband connections may not exist today. Prior to the introduction of the World Wide Web or online video, few could have foreseen the need among consumers for connections of 10 Mbps or more. In a similar way, new applications will emerge that will absorb the available bandwidth and drive future development into multi-gigabit-speed services. 

This article originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of ISE Magazine.

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Brett Sappington

Brett Sappington

Senior Director of Research

As senior director of research at Parks Associates, Brett Sappington leads Parks Associates research practice for entertainment, access, and consumer electronics. Brett is an internationally recognized thought leader in the television, broadband, and online video services industries. His personal research focuses on the activities and trends among content producers, broadcasters, networks, and operators and the market forces affecting their businesses. Brett is a regular speaker and moderator at international industry events.

Brett has spent over twenty years in the industry as an analyst, executive manager, and entrepreneur for companies specializing in cloud, communication, and IP-related technologies. He founded and served as vice president for Teligy, a software company focused on software for wired and wireless communications systems. Brett established new divisions for networking and audio/multimedia software for Intelligraphics. He has also been involved in the development and marketing of early-market products for Wi-Fi, VoIP, video-over-IP and other technologies.

Brett holds an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin with a concentration in high-tech marketing and a BA in physics from Baylor University.

INDUSTRY EXPERTISE: International Digital Living Trends, Pay TV (IPTV, cable, satellite/DTH, terrestrial/DTT), Broadband, Television and Movie Content Distribution, OTT and Online Video, Entertainment Consumption Habits, Video Infrastructure and Delivery Technologies, Metadata, Middleware, Content Security, Cloud-based Technologies, UI/UX and Discovery Technologies, Set-top Boxes, DVR/Cloud DVR, and Residential Gateways

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