Believe it or not, there are those of us who are old enough to remember when the internet consisted of squeaky dial-up connections, pages downloading at a rate of one per day and not being able to get online until your mum was off the phone.
Then came broadband, WiFi and speeds that increased a hundred-fold from 53 kbps (kilobits per second) to 5,300 kbps in a matter of a few years. Glorious, beautiful, life-changing internet became possible. But apart from gradual improvements in download speeds, the technology hasn’t really changed since it was introduced 20 years ago.
Well, now change has arrived, and it’s come in the form of wireless broadband that will increase the speed of your internet more than a hundred times over again, from the current average of 46.2 Mbps (megabits per second) to 6,000 Mbps by 2025. It means that in the years to come, we will start thinking of our current broadband connections in the same way as we remember dial-up: comically slow and hopelessly unable to achieve what we take for granted from our technology.
We think wireless broadband is the future
Wireless broadband has nothing to do with how you connect your devices at home; it is about how the internet reaches your home in the first place. Traditional broadband travels via high-speed fibre optic cable from national data centres to local exchanges and then by copper cable to your house. Because copper is terrible at carrying signals over any distance, providers are now in the process of switching them for fibre optic cables, resulting in ‘full fibre’ connections capable of up to 1,000 Mbps. This will take many years to complete, because it involves digging up every road to lay the new cable directly to people’s houses.
Regardless, traditional broadband travels a long way and is limited by the type of cable that carries it, even the most sophisticated fibre optic technology. With wireless broadband, the internet is sent to houses via radio signal at the speed of light, with no need for local exchanges and a far shorter distance to travel between the transmitter and receiver. It is broadcast via wireless transmitters installed on roof-tops, telecommunication masts, monopoles and street poles, creating a network that completely covers the town or city. As long as your home is within line-of-sight of one of the transmitters, you can receive wireless broadband, which is much faster and has better latency than anything that comes via cable.
The benefits of wireless broadband
The positive aspects of wireless broadband are not just limited to its speed (although the headline numbers are pretty impressive). With home phones slowly becoming a distant memory for newer generations, residents will be able to completely ditch their landlines if they want to. It also means there will be no such thing as ‘peak’ usage anymore. Currently, your home’s internet can slow down if lots of other households are online at the same time. That’s because the whole street often relies on the data from a single optical fibre split between houses. The wireless broadband connection provides every house with its own, individual link to ultra-high speed internet, unshared by any other household. It means that no matter how many houses on your street are streaming the latest 4K Ultra HD films, your home’s connection will not slow down.
One of the most exciting things about wireless broadband is that we are still at the very early stages of its development. Sure, 6,000 Mbps sounds fast now, just as 6 Mbps sounded fast in 1999, but as more and more money continues to flow into R&D for wireless technology, we will inevitably see speeds increase even further. The world is only a few years away from realising the potential of a completely new digital landscape. If you have been in any way excited, entertained or enraptured by the internet over the last 20 years, just imagine what the next couple of decades are going to bring.