Recent Breakthroughs in Fiber, GPON, WiFi, Middle-mile and Last Mile Networks

Major breakthroughs in network platform innovation continue at a rapid pace, with GAFAM (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft) leading the charge. These innovations are occurring in different market segments including fiber network technology, hardware, WiFi, 5G, GPON, WDM, mobile and DOCSIS.

Google is leading the efforts to democratize Internet access, having “built the largest private network in the world” which is serving a “billion unique addresses per day”. Some of the more interesting breakthroughs include the following:

Transition to Fiber

Fiber optics represents a significant advantage over copper cables, allowing for faster speeds over longer distances because they use light rather than electricity to deliver information and are not as susceptible to interference and loss of signal. As a result, recent deployments of fiber optics by Verizon FiOS and Google Fiber have skyrocketed, and one estimate is that DOCSIS might reach 200Gbps by 2030. However, can it happen sooner?

  • Verizon recently made a deal to purchase 37M miles of fiber over the next three years in order to improve its wireless network.
  • Google’s Indigo Cable, an undersea cable system, is set to be completed in 2019, and is capable of supporting eight million simultaneous Google Hangout calls.
  • DOCSIS, Arris’s hybrid fiber coaxial, may be capable of supporting 200Gbps in the next decade, according to Arris’s CTO.

GPON and Gigabit LTE

GPON (Gigabit Passive Optic Network) is a broadband technology that uses passive splitters to serve multiple homes and businesses using one feeding fiber. By consolidating services into a single fiber network, users can increase bandwidth while reducing cost and infrastructure. On the mobile front, Gigabit LTE is an advanced form of LTE that can support up to 1 Gbps on mobile devices.

  • Recent lab tests demonstrate GPON’s capacity to support 102Gbps.
  • By 2024, GPON is expected to reach $46B in sales, and a recent initiative from Starman and Nokia will use it to build a nationwide 10GB network in Estonia.
  • KT (Korea) uses GiGA LTE to increase DL speeds from 66 to 244 Mbps, and UL speeds from 14 to 231 Mbps for its 29.45M subscribers.
  • Samsung’s Galaxy S8 supports Gigabit LTE, and T-Mobile has recently released a list of markets for it. Sprint, Verizon and AT&T have also stated plans to release Gigabit LTE in the coming year.

Satellite and WiFi Hotspots

Rural populations often struggle to maintain high internet speeds due to the lack of infrastructure in sparsely populated geographic locations. In order to provide better options for these and other underserved populations, many companies have launched programs to boost connectivity via Internet-beaming satellites, WiFi hotspots, and other initiatives.

  • Google is currently equipping over 400 train stations in India with free high-speed WiFi to bring access to 10M passengers.
  • Facebook and Bharti Airtel have partnered to create 20,000 Internet hot spots in India in order to provide customers with affordable Internet access.
  • Google has filed a patent to build a constellation of 1000 satellites that will orbit the Earth, broadcasting the Internet.
  • SpaceX has plans to launch satellites providing Internet connectivity in early 2018.
  • Apple recently signalled its interest in Internet-broadcasting satellites by hiring a pair of top Google executives with experience in satellite technology.

In addition to products already on the market or in development, research is being conducted into various technologies that can be used to speed up WiFi and fiber optics, demonstrating even greater advancements and bringing us closer to ubiquitous bandwidth as the methods come to market.

  • Researchers using wavelength division multiplexing were able to push 255Tbps over a single strand of glass fiber
  • A recent study demonstrated the how infra-red technology could be used to push WiFi speeds up to 42.8Gbps

As broadband speeds exponentially increase and availability expands, it will no longer be necessary to speak in terms of Mbps, Gbps or Tbps, but ports capable of supporting unlimited bandwidth. With research outcomes, technological advancements, and increased infrastructure, unlimited, ubiquitous bandwidth is not only a possibility, but a certainty sure to upend the Internet Infrastructure industry within a decade.

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