All Gigabits Are Created Equally
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gigabits, gigabit access, Gfast, DOCSIS, fiber, broadband

All Gigabits Are Created Equally

Fiber – everyone wants it but few can afford it. We get it: fiber promises gigabit speeds and high performance, but is it achieving widespread deployment? Google Fiber quickly learned the road to fiber is fiscally draining. The company has replaced its CEO and made major cuts to its staff. In comments published in 2017, Google stated it’s making the cuts, so it can bring “Google Fiber to customers faster, so we’re focused on making deployment more efficient and less intrusive.” And that’s the rub – fiber deployments are not efficient and are inherently intrusive for consumers. And aren’t all gigabits created equally?

So, why is fiber the end-all-be-all in the road to achieving gigabit access? And, why is fiber consistently the only technology regularly mentioned in the road to providing gigabit service for all? After all, a gigabit is a simple measurement. The basic definition of a gigabit as it relates to data is one billion bits, or 1,000,000,000 (that is, 10^9) bits. It’s commonly used for measuring the amount of data that is transferred in a second between two telecommunication points. For example, a technology that can provide data transfer rates of about 1 gigabit per second (Gbps), is considered a gigabit-worthy technology. Two new technologies are challenging fiber in delivering gigabit broadband speeds – Gfast and DOCSIS 3.1.

Both technologies promise ultra-high broadband speeds of 1 Gbps. Yet, government regulators are still longing for fiber deployments in Europe and the US, while leading telcos, like Deutsche Telekom, BT, Orange, BEZEQ, CenturyLink, Windstream and industry giant AT&T, are exploring Gfast to offer customers top-line broadband speeds at affordable costs.

And why not. Gfast technology is not only capable of providing gigabit speeds, but the technology through collective dynamic time assignment (CDTA) is providing symmetrical downstream and upstream speeds of up to 1 Gbps in either direction at a fraction of the cost of full fiber deployments. The DTA system is designed to listen for the demands of each consumer and to coordinate the upstream and downstream traffic to optimize the solution for the subscriber based on how he or she really uses broadband. As a highly sophisticated system, it analyzes traffic across all the subscribers and optimizes the performance for the entire system to ensure the highest overall performance at all times.

Gfast is an affordable option to fiber and the infrastructure is already there, making it easy to deploy in the street cabinet or in a multi-dwelling unit’s (MDU) telecommunications closet. Speaking of MDUs, Gfast is a prime application as building unit owners do not have to come to a unanimous consensus, as Gfast infrastructure is already in play. To lay fiber in an MDU, all building unit owners must agree, as fiber must be laid and community property (yards, roadways, hallways, etc.) must be dug up to lay the fiber. It’s a time-consuming and intrusive process that many MDU unit owners are not willing to undertake.

Ultimately, the path to ultra-high-speed broadband should be the goal. Regulators are constantly lobbied to about fiber’s promise. Recently, Deloitte issued a report on the need to upgrade the US infrastructure and invest in fiber deployment. The premise of the report calls to action the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 2015 broadband standards report outlining new broadband minimum standards of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload speeds for the US. While Deloitte’s report supports this legislation, and calls it critical to keeping the US competitive in the global economy, the company’s report only identifies one way to achieve these metrics – fiber. Deloitte doesn’t explore other options.

Whether it’s through DOCSIS 3.1, fiber or Gfast, consistently achieving 1 Gbps speeds is imminent. The goal is it to get there regardless of the technology. After all, all gigabits are created equally.