If you are a millennial, there’s a good chance that you have accessed the internet using a dial-up connection. The cacophonic noise of the modem logging you in, followed by the sluggish loading of your favorite webpages are forever etched into endearing childhood memories. However, the turn of the century has seen broadband replace dial-up connection, owing to its superior speed and performance. A 2013 study by the Pew Research Center reported that only 3% Americans still used dial up connection, while more than 70% preferred high-speed broadband. As internet becomes the de-facto medium through which all communications occur, there is a high demand among its clientele for ever increasing speed. To cater to these needs, internet providers have constantly upgraded their service to clock up broadband speed.
Today, people not only use the internet to browse emails and websites but also to stream high quality videos onto their computers and smart TV’s. Video streaming services such as Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu have surpassed traditional broadcast and cable as the primary medium of TV consumption. Streaming these services, often in high quality such as 1080p and 4K, requires a high speed internet connection. As cloud computing becomes the norm, having a high download and upload speed becomes crucial to access your personal files secured in various servers across the world. No matter what your current internet speed is, it always fails to satiate your digital thirst.
The demand for ever increasing internet speed has driven almost all internet service providers to constantly upgrade their plans. Recently, the American global telecommunication conglomerate, Comcast, announced that it would increase internet speed across all of their plans for customers in northeast United States. The company also promised to follow suit across the rest of the country very soon. The speed of any broadband internet depends on the quality of fiber optic cables used to transmit information. In a promise to provide substantially higher internet speed, Alphabet Inc., launched Google Fiber that aimed to provide the first gigabit per second internet connection to Americans using their own indigenous fiber optic cables. Although being operational in several cities across the United States, it still has a long way to make that dream into a reality.
The need for higher internet speed doesn’t just stem from the United States, but across all nations around the globe. M-Lab collected data from 163 million speed test across 200 countries to report that the global average internet speed increased by 23% from 2017 to 2018, currently clocking at 9.1 Mbps. While Singapore led the charts to rank as the country with the fastest internet, 36 out of the top 50 countries are located in Europe, primarily due to their FTTP (pure fiber) availability. The average speed in the United States increased form 20 Mbps to 26 Mbps, making it the 20th rank country in terms of average internet speed.
Nonetheless, fiber optic broadband is set to lose some of its dominance to cellular network technology. As the demand for mobile web access is on the rise, owing to smartphones and tablets, network service providers are also investing heavily on 4G/5G technology that aims to use microwave spectrum to transfer data from cellular towers. Although it’s impossible for these networks to match the speed of broadband, it’s imminent that every internet providing platform is on the drive to constantly provide higher internet speed to meet our growing demand.