The dawn of the Gigabit Internet age: every bit counts
TMT Predictions 2016
Deloitte Global predicts that the number of Gigabit per second (Gbit/s) Internet connections will surge to 10 million by year-end, a tenfold increase, of which about 70 percent will be residential connections. Rising demand is likely to be fuelled by increasing availability: in 2015, the number of Gbit/s tariffs almost doubled in just three quarters, from just over 80 to over 150 (see Figure 1), and falling prices. The 10 million subscribers will likely, however, represent a small proportion of the 250 million customers on networks capable of Gbit/s (or 1,000 Mbit/s) connections as of end-2016. Looking further ahead, we forecast about 600 million subscribers may be on networks that offer a Gigabit tariff as of 2020, representing the majority of connected homes in the world.
While Gbit/s subscriptions should surge this year (albeit from close to nothing to niche) the sharpest inflection point for the service may be in terms of perception. For homes, the perceived reasoning for Gbit/s service will likely evolve from meeting the needs of a single application running on a single device to meeting the aggregate demand from multiple devices. Although a Gbit/s connection for a single device may be overkill, consumers are likely to continue accumulating connected devices in the long term. At the start of 2016, upper quartile homes in developed countries may have already accumulated a dozen connected devices, each of which may individually ‘sip’ data, but collectively, at peak time, might ‘gulp’ data. Through 2020 that dozen may well become dozens. And as average data connections get faster, we expect existing services to become steadily more bandwidth consumptive, new formerly unviable data-intensive services to launch, and new ‘data-gulping’ devices to come to market.
Over time many data services have consumed an increasing quantity of bandwidth, rising in line with availability. Video streaming offers the clearest example of this. Its quality has increased steadily along with data connectivity speeds. Over the past decade, video streaming services have progressed from offering 0.5 Mbit/s streams, which is inferior to standard definition (SD) television, to ultra-high 4K resolution, using 25-50 Mbit/s, or up to 100 times more bandwidth.
Small businesses are also experiencing a significant increase in bandwidth demand, with the move to cloud-based services for a growing range of applications being a key driver of this.
A Gbit/s Internet connection might appear frivolous, but a decade ago some commentators may have questioned the need for a touchscreen-based device capable of transmitting data at 150 Mbit/s, with storage for tens of thousands of HD photos, video quality sufficient for broadcast, a pixel density superior to most TV sets, a secure finger-print reader, and billions of transistors within a 64-bit eight core processor. Yet modern smartphones with this specification are likely to sell in the hundreds of millions of units this year.
While this predictions focuses on 2016, and the Gigabit/s era, it is most likely that the speed race will not conclude upon reaching this speed. We would expect Internet speeds to continue rising in the long term; 10 Gbit/s has already been announced, and in future, 50 Gbit/s connections are being contemplated.