Will Fiber-Optic Cable Help Google Solve the US’s Internet Speed Mediocrity?

More fiber-optic cable has been laid in the United States than in Europe in the past two years. This is, of course, a plus, and it shows that the United States is serious about moving forward with getting higher broadband speeds to homes. The average broadband connection speed is about 9.8 Mbps, which places the US in eighth place in the world. However, according to a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) report, the US charges more per Mbps than those countries higher up on the list.



According the New York Times, the answer to many Internet woes may be Google. Google has started the Google Fiber project in Provo, Utah, and Kansas City, Missouri. They currently have plans to move into Austin, Texas, next. The process of setting up Google Fiber in a new city begins with the company deciding on the city it wants to expand into. Google then tries to secure enough pre-orders to see if the area will be worth the cost. If enough people sign up, Google goes out and starts the installation of fiber-optic cable. Google calls these zones “fiberhoods.”

There are three basic plans that new customers can sign up for: Internet and TV for $120/month, just Internet for $70/month, or a free package. The free package offers normal speeds of Internet access and promises it will remain free for seven years. The other two packages offer Internet speeds up to 1 gigabit (1,000 Mbps) download and upload speeds. That is around ten times faster than anything homeowners can usually get with their local Internet service provider (ISP).

Laying the Groundwork

IBM has recently reported that they have developed a prototype that can allow Internet speeds of up to 400 Gbps using a new analog-to-digital converter (ADC) technology. This speed is 400 times what Google is currently offering over its fiber-optic cable network. However, this technology is mainly being created to work in the Square Kilometer Array (SKA). The SKA is an international project to create the world’s largest radio telescope. The technology is baffling, and with the new ADC technology, the array would be able to download around an exabyte (1 billion gigabytes) of information per day. For comparison, about 2.5 exabytes pass through the entire Internet in a single day.

So, is Google’s Fiber project all for naught? Definitely not. In fact, one day these two technologies may work perfectly together. The ADC is just a prototype and is not expected to be ready for another decade. The ADC will also need to run across fiber-optic cable to work efficiently. Other technologies will have to be developed to set up the chip arrays across the areas that could receive this beyond-fast Internet. Not to mention, right now the cost of something like this, although not expensive for an international project, would be way too high for a homeowner. In the meantime, as Google Fiber expands into more cities, it will offer affordable high-speed Internet to more and more of the population.

Photo credit: Flickr/JaredZammit