A Holy Grail, if not the Holy Grail, for network builders is gigabit performance from existing resources. Fiber networks have demonstrated superior performance to coaxial cable, but installing it is expensive. Coax has been around since 1931 and used everywhere in radio and TV. It’s already paid for, but it doesn’t offer the speed potential of fiber, or at least it hasn’t until now. A technology that allows coax speeds in excess of those currently available from fiber networks could make high-speed Internet available to virtually every consumer in America in no time at all.
Networking giant Cisco Systems Inc. believes new technology, called converged cable access platform (CCAP), will make it possible to transmit data at 10 Gbps across standard coaxial cable networks. Most coax networks can currently deliver speeds up to 150 Mbps, which is far faster than the national average, and more speed than many customers need or want. But for some, the idea of increased speed is irresistible, and that idea could soon become reality.
No Pipe, Err, Cable Dream
We’ve run many stories on tech breakthroughs that might help speed up the Internet once they make it out of the lab¬; this isn’t one of those technologies. Cisco’s technology is already on sale and is being tested by major providers. One of Cisco’s competitors believes their system could be in operation starting later this year. Although Cisco isn’t the only company building a CCAP, it says its system, which it calls cBR-8, has more speed and bandwidth than competing devices. That’s good news for consumers, as competition should help reduce the expense passed on to customers when compared to proprietary technology.
More Speed, Less Money
Assuming the technology works as advertised, it has the potential to lower broadband cost, particularly for gigabit speeds. One of the biggest reasons 1 Gbps access often costs $70 or more is that providers have to recoup the cost of building a fiber network. One estimate put the cost of Google’s Kansas City’s fiber network at $84 million, and while the cost of CCAP technology isn’t readily available, Cisco says cBR-8 saves 40 percent compared to other CCAP products.
It’s too soon to know how 10 Gbps plans might be priced, but we can guess at how such speeds will affect the value of other plans. With existing infrastructure in place, cable Internet providers could potentially use CCAP to undercut providers using fiber where available. In areas where building fiber networks is prohibitively expensive, it could mean 10 Gbps speeds for any residence with cable TV access. And it may well drive down the price of cable companies current top-tier plans, which will soon seem slow by comparison.
Although brands are already invested in cBR-8, Cisco says it’s available to other interested companies as well. While the term is overused, the company calls it a “game changer,” and we admit it’s hard to imagine that other U.S. cable and Internet providers won’t begin using cBR-8 or competing technology in the near future.
Even for extremely rural customers without cable access, there may still be hope for faster Internet speeds. If you’re not satisfied with what you have now, you may be surprised at what’s now available.
Photo Credit: Bob Mical/Flikr Tech giant Cisco Systems conducted a survey of 3,700 Gen-X, Gen-Y, and HR professionals in 15 countries. Cisco’s aim was to better understand “the current workplace environment from a technological standpoint and its shift towards becoming increasingly mobile, flexible and remote.” To do so, the survey asked its respondents about their use of computers, mobile devices, apps, and technological preferences and expectations. For the purposes of the study, Gen-X is defined as being 31-50 years old, and Gen-Y as 18-30 years old. That makes me, at 36, a member of the flannel grunge brigade, so interpret my take on the study through that lens.
Some of the findings from the study aren’t all that thrilling, like how many apps each person uses at work on a given day. But others, like exactly how attached these professionals are to the Internet, are definitely eye-opening.
The Cyborgs Are Coming
Let’s start with a big one: 26 percent of Gen-Y workers, and 21 percent of Gen-Xers, would be willing to surgically implant a device that linked the Internet directly to their thoughts, were such a device available. While such a device would probably make you everyone’s first pick as a Trivial Pursuit teammate, I have to wonder about the potential security concerns of such a device. Because no current Internet device is entirely secure against hacking, I’m not sure I want to open up my brain to being hacked. Actually, I’m sure I don’t.
To some, such a device probably isn’t much more than a natural evolution from artificial hearts and joints. But I do see a moral component to this: it’s bordering on giving yourself a superpower. If technology ever does reach this point, that’s when I’m getting off the tech train and officially becoming a Luddite.
A Rose By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet. We Think.
But 58 percent of each group says they’d rather lose their sense of smell than their Internet access, and I think I’d miss petrichor. And a surprising number, 22 percent of Gen-X and 24 percent of Gen-Y, would also give up their sense of taste rather than the Internet. Overall, not even funny cat pictures have the allure of pizza and chocolate.
From My Cold Dead Hands
People love their smartphones, too. If forced to choose between their TV and their smartphones, 76 percent of Gen-Y and 67 percent of Gen-X would choose the phone. That’s not a big shock. Only about a third of each group would rather give up electricity for a week than their phones, which is good, because only the dumbest of phones can go a week without charging. And did I mention people really love their smartphones? Because 48 percent of Gen-Y and 47 percent of Gen-X would rather give up sex for a month than their phone.
In what seems like related news, more of each group look at their phone first thing in the morning, rather than a loved one—in this case, we’ll give a pass to those waking up alone each morning. And in exchange for free cell phone service, 45 percent of Gen-Y would allow their provider unlimited access to their data; 30 percent would share that same information with the government, and 29 percent with their employer. For Gen-X, those numbers are 43, 29, and 27 percent, respectively.
The study also gives a glimpse into what each generation expects from future technology. When asked what they though the most important connected device will be in 2020, 40 percent of Gen-Y said their phone, 25 percent their tablet, 23 percent wearables, 6 percent their car, and 5 percent named their personal robot assistant. Gen-Xers also placed phones first, but named wearables ahead of tablets, and the robot assistant ahead of cars.
It’s a Bird…It’s a plane…It’s a Supertasker!
Cisco defined supertasking as the ability to successfully do two or more things at once…without noticeable impairment. Given this definition, both groups named smartphones as the best tool for the job, followed by laptops and then desktop computers. Each feels supertasking makes them more efficient: 55 percent for Gen-Y, and 51 percent for Gen-X. That’s even though 55 percent of Gen-Y and 70 percent of Gen-X admit to mixing personal and professional tasks while supertasking. Maybe Gen-Y’s confidence stems from the fact that 56 percent believe their perceived efficiency comes from being “wired” differently than older Gen-X colleagues. Whatever the reason, 60 percent of Gen-X agrees their younger colleagues perform tasks faster when using mobile devices and apps.
Get Off My Lawn or Welcome Our New Tech Overlords
To be sure, there’s nothing wrong with one generation favoring a new technology over an older one. But at the risk of sounding like your grandfather, I feel a bit for the people so addicted to the Internet and the web that they’d trade human interaction and the things that make us human. That’s not necessarily a new complaint, so maybe I’m closer to being a Luddite than I thought.
I’m all for keeping your use of the Internet in perspective, and in balance. But when you are online, there’s no sense in settling for older tech and slow connection speeds. That’s one advance I’ll gladly accept.
What about you? Want faster Internet when you’re online?
Image by m01229/Flickr