It was inevitable that ISPs would eventually start offering residential broadband speeds faster than 1 gigabit. It’s a little hard to believe it was so long ago, but it was back at the end of 2012 when Google Fiber announced it was bringing gigabit fiber to Kansas City. I know of a few small ISPs, like the municipal ISPs in Lafayette, LA and Chattanooga, TN that offered gigabit service before then – but Google Fiber was the first to make gigabit the only product.
Gigabit data speeds were revolutionary in 2012. At that time, the speed of the basic product on most cable company networks was ‘up to 30 Mbps’. Google leaped the market speeds with over a 30X increase in speed – the biggest jump since we leaped from dial-up to 1 Mbps DSL.
At the time, the cable companies all scoffed at Google Fiber as a gimmick – but in markets where they competed against gigabit fiber, the cable companies scrambled to roll out gigabit products using DOCSIS 3.1. And the biggest cable companies like Comcast and Charter stepped up the broadband game and will have moved the speed of basic broadband from 30 Mbps to 200 Mbps in 2021.
It took a long time for users to buy into the gigabit speed tier. This was often due to price since gigabit products on cable company networks are priced over $100 per month before adding the modem fee. But Google Fiber has stayed with the same $70 price it announced in 2012 and numerous other fiber ISPs now have gigabit products under $100. That price no longer looks high when the price of the standalone Comcast broadband and modem is at $90.
OpenVault reports on broadband usage and subscriptions and reports that in the last year that residential gigabit subscriptions have climbed to 5.6% of all broadband subscriptions – a 124% increase from just a year earlier. Families sent home during the pandemic are deciding in mass that faster speeds are needed to support their new broadband needs.
Google Fiber has announced the introduction of a 2-gigabit product. For now, the product is only being offered in Huntsville, AL and Nashville, TN. One has to think that the company will eventually offer 2-gigabit service in its other 30 markets. Google Fiber has priced the 2-gigabit tier at $100. This comes with a new modem that is capable of handling the 2-gigabit speeds as well as WiFi 6 to efficiently transport large bandwidth applications around the home without interference.
An even faster product is now being offered by MLCG of Enderlin, North Dakota. The company announced a 5-gigabit bandwidth product and a 2.5-gigabit product. The 5-gigabit product is priced at $199 per month and the 2.5-gigabit product at $150 per month. MLCG advertises the 5-gigabit product for “Multiple users simultaneously – Stream or edit 4K videos, upload/download LARGE files, gaming with NO worry about lag, multiple smart home devices, video chat, play online games, download files, streaming HD shows and movies, social media and web browsing“.
Skeptics will say that these new products are a gimmick and that nobody needs Internet access faster than gigabit speeds. That would have been a valid observation in 2012 when there was nothing that could be done over a residential internet connection that needed a gigabit of speed. But I know users who tell me they are stretching a gigabit product. I have a friend who has several heavy gamers in the household and who also also backs up his office servers at home daily who tells me there are times when a gigabit feels a little slow. I have several clients who have told me that doctors are asking for something faster than a gigabit in order to be able to view 3D medical scans in real-time at home. Already today, one out of 18 homes in the country has upgraded to a gigabit product, and it’s not hard to imagine that some of those homes want more than a gigabit.
I’m sure that the initial penetration rates on the products faster than a gigabit will be minuscule at first. But let’s look back at this in five years when a lot of ISPs offer multi-gigabit products. ISPs that can’t offer gigabit speeds never miss an opportunity to pooh-pooh fast broadband – but over time the penetration rate for these new faster products will climb, just like it has for gigabit broadband.