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These Are the Technologies Making 1 Gb/s Internet and Beyond a Reality Across the Globe

Portrait of Russ Fordyce

August 9, 2023
By Russ Fordyce
Sr. Director, Marketing

Today’s global average internet speed is approaching 80 Mb/s, but that average is expected to exceed 1 Gb/s by 2035. And while 70 countries already offer 1 Gb/s service, getting that speed delivered to your laptop or server requires multiple technology upgrades, from your living room to deep within your service provider’s network.

These are the Technologies Making 1 Gb/s Internet and Beyond a Reality Across the Globe

Let’s Start Inside Your Home

A fast connection into your home means nothing if your home network simply can’t keep up. Most of us utilize Wi-Fi to distribute internet throughout our homes, but many of us have Wi-Fi routers that aren’t up to the job of delivering these new speeds. If your router is even just a few years old, it may be the limiting factor in getting the speed you paid for. If you have a newer Wi-Fi 6 router, while it promised to deliver speeds in excess of 1 Gb/s, in reality, for most, it comes up short, with just 920 Mb/s of actual throughput.

Luckily Wi-Fi 7 (802.11be) is coming up fast with the new standard expected to be finalized in 2024. While the new Wi-Fi 7 is still in “draft” mode, many hardware manufacturers have already started building and selling new equipment that promises a theoretical maximum of 46 Gb/s, more than enough to handle 1 Gb/s speeds. Wi-Fi 7 will utilize a new technology referred to as “multi-link operation (MLO).” MLO allows devices to simultaneously send and receive data over multiple radio bands to create a single aggregated connection, making Wi-Fi 7 about four times faster than today’s Wi-fi 6.

Getting 1 Gb/s To Your Home

There are lots of ways people connect to the Internet these days for high-speed access, including fiber to the home (FTTH), hybrid fiber coax (HFC), and even 5G fixed wireless.

FTTH networks rely on passive optical networks (PON), and the good news here is that 10G and 25G PON technologies are ready now! Many service providers have rolled this technology out and are able to satisfy those blazing fast 1 Gb/s speeds, but even this technology will soon need an upgrade as more customers purchase these higher-speed connections. To support more customers and even faster speeds, service providers will need to deploy 50G PON technology, which is expected to start shipping in 2025, and 100G PON that will arrive near 2030.

HFC or “cable” networks will also be getting an upgrade. At the edge of the network, the DOCSIS 4.0 specification is now available, with real equipment and deployments expected to start in 2025. With DOCSIS 4.0, HFC networks get more symmetrical and will be able to support speeds of up to 10 Gb/s downstream capacity and up to 6 Gb/s upstream capacity, which will mean that for the first time ever, HFC providers can offer true symmetrical gigabit services. In regional networks, cable operators are working on their own evolution of PON technology called coherent PON (CPON) that moves coherent optical technology deeper into regional networks and closer to customers. CPON equipment is expected to start shipping in 2025 and is said to provide speeds up to 100 Gb/s and far better performance over longer distances, making it able to reach more customers and handle more endpoints than current 10G PON networks.

Mobile operators are also starting to roll out home internet services based on the 5G standard. Commonly referred to as “fixed wireless access” (FWA), these services feed your home using the same 5G towers as your mobile phone with speeds between 100 and 300 Mb/s, and some up to 1 Gb/s for a premium. 5G services are still rolling out globally, with subscriptions rising to over 4 billion by 2027, and in dense environments like urban areas and sporting and entertainment venues, operators are starting to deploy 5G networks using mmWave spectrum, which allows for higher speeds and lower latency. But mmWave signals don’t propagate as well as traditional low band or mid-band spectrum, so to get the coverage needed and support the increased bandwidth per user, operators will need to deploy more radios and more sites. What’s next? Well, 6G is still being discussed and developed by the industry, and commercial launches of 6G services aren’t expected until 2030. As of now it looks like 6G networks will use higher-frequency signals and include native support for mmWave technology to reduce latency and support connections of up to 10G.

Supporting All That Bandwidth in the Network

Supporting all these 1 Gb/s services and 10G PONs are regional networks and core networks that span cities and countries using the latest coherent optical networking technologies. Coherent technology has been available in the core of the network for some time, with speeds now reaching up to 800 Gb/s,  and the next generation of technologies are already in development and will support single optical wavelengths with speeds up to 1.2 terabits per second and beyond.

To get the capacity we need today, operators are beginning to deploy optical networks using L-band frequencies. While most operators exclusively use C-band technologies today, equipment leveraging the L-band frequency can be deployed in parallel to effectively double the capacity of existing fiber assets by simply utilizing an additional frequency of light. Additionally, Super-C and Super-L technologies expand the C-band and the L-band by an incremental 25%. With the additional spectrum, operators can deploy more wavelengths over the same fiber.

But the big news is that these coherent optical engines will be moving out of long-haul and submarine networks and into regional networks and PONs closer to the end customer as service providers add more and more capacity to support 1 Gb/s customers. Today these regional networks are mostly serviced using legacy optical technology that can only support speeds between 1 and 10 Gb/s. With newer, more intelligent coherent pluggable optics, speeds of 100-400 Gb/s will be common in just a short amount of time.

Broadband internet access certainly isn’t a luxury anymore, and as new consumer and business applications keep driving bandwidth needs higher, even newer technologies will evolve to satisfy our insatiable appetite.