Google Fiber recently announced in the news that they will be bringing their gigabit Internet service to Huntsville, Alabama. This will be the tenth city that has been “officially” announced by Google Fiber in the past three years, and they have also announced eleven other cities as “potential” fiber locations. AT&T, CenturyLink and other telecommunications companies are also expanding their fiber networks across the country. Google has triggered what we have been calling the “fiber boom,” where every house, business, university, hospital, etc. will be wired and plugged in with the ability to communicate faster than most people can imagine. As of 2015, less than 10% of all Americans have access to a fiber network that can produce broadband speeds of 1 gigabit or higher, so this is definitely not something that will happen overnight. The process to build out a “fiber city” takes years of planning, design and construction before a home or business can start utilizing this technology.
What is Fiber Optic Technology? When most people think of a fiber network, they picture cell towers and the fiber cables that connect the tower to transmit a wireless signal for your cell phone. But in reality, a fiber network is very similar to your existing utilities (power, water, gas or telephone) that currently connect your home or business, in that they originate and travel along the right of way to connect directly to your location. The difference from the existing utilities is that most of the fiber network must be constructed or new path placed to reach your home or business, since most residents have out of date copper technology that was originally placed for POTS (Plain Old Telephone System) lines. Due to the amount of new infrastructure that must be placed, it will take years for an entire metropolitan city to be up and running. That means the opportunity to get into network design is now as we all look to improve on the United States low ranking connectivity speeds. Our country currently ranks 14th in average connection speed at 12.6Mbps and this “fiber boom” will change this drastically.
How will Fiber Optic Technology affect you? If you are wondering how fiber will get to you, below is an overview of a fiber network. At the highest level fiber is just light that travels from one point to another through glass (transparent plastic fibers which allow light to be guided from one end to the other with minimal loss).
While most larger cities have Backbone fiber rings in place by multiple carriers, most smaller cities will require additional build out. A Backbone ring takes proper planning and design to allocate for existing structures and future greenfield communities. Huntsville is following a slightly different model than other Google cities, where the local utility company is building out the backbone and infrastructure before selling it to Google for subscribers. This will get them closer to being able to obtain the below speeds for connectivity:
Bob Marley – Legend Album 10 mbps: 1 minute 1 Gig: < 1 second
The Goonies on Blu-Ray 10 mbps: 7 hours 1 Gig: 4.25 minutes
7 years of work files and selfies 10 mbps: 2.3 days 1 Gig: 33 minutes
Other cities should take note and follow the format that Huntsville is putting in place, where their local utility company is building the infrastructure and selling back to Google. This will get all the residents and businesses in the Huntsville area the ability to communicate and enjoy technology at faster speeds, rather than waiting on the major clients to come to them. And, as the saying goes – if you build it, they will come!
About Foresite Group
Foresite Group is a multidisciplinary engineering, planning, and consulting firm providing services to public and private sector clients nationwide. Our team’s collaborative process results in creative products and services that help our clients achieve their goals. Our team takes pride in enhancing and developing the cities and communities where we live, work, and raise our families.