A year ago, Gigabit (1 Gbps) broadband service was considered the top of the range and Super-Gigabit services were a pipedream. But roll forward to 2021, and requirements have changed: Super-Gigabit services are making their presence felt.
Now it’s early 2021. Covid-19 coexistence is the name of the spiritual game, and simultaneous home learning/working from home (WFH) is the new normal. Consequently, many homes are now looking into upgrading their home broadband for this ‘New Normal’.
Sensing this home broadband upgrade opportunity, many service providers are going back to the drawing board on service bundling, convergence, and pricing strategies, leveraging the latest broadband technologies to offer services that go well beyond 1 Gigabit.
While EPON, DOCSIS 3.1, and XGS-PON Super-Gigabit broadband technologies have been touted for years, the evidence suggests commercial services are already available in some markets.
The growth of Super-Gigabit services
A February 2021 audit of Super-Gigabit (1-10 Gigabit) services found reasonably priced options from ten different 10 Gbps services, in South Korea (KT and SK Telecom), Switzerland (Swisscom, Salt and Sunrise), Japan (Nuro and Au), Sweden (Bahnhof.se) and the UK (B4RN), with a range of options from 1-10 Gbps from operators as diverse as Orange France and StarHub Singapore to Google Fiber. Among the ‘10G’ class, eight of the ten services audited came with a monthly subscription charge of around USD 100 or lower.
Still, there are plenty of caveats. The first – and easily the most important –is the highly limited availability of these services. In most cases, Super-Gigabit services have only been rolled out across a very small handful of towns or cities, and even within these areas, availability and provisioning times can vary significantly from one street to another.
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There are good reasons for that. When it comes to the provisioning of Super-Gigabit PON services, operators have a host of costly decisions and manual processes to manage, from sending engineers out to execute cabinet line card switches to testing, or even upgrading entire GPON OLTs that are unsuitable for upgrading with new line cards.
Service providers need to focus investment
Lastly, service providers need to focus their upgrading investment where it makes the most sense. Like any technology, Super-Gigabit services require a critical mass to be profitable, which means the technology suffers from the classic ‘chicken and egg’ problem.
Consequently, ordering a Super-Gigabit service is rarely as easy as putting a broadband product into a web shopping cart. End-user forums host Super-Gigabit customer complaints of being put on long waiting lists, only later to be informed of the excessively high installation costs.
During our survey of some 15 Super-Gigabit services across the world, we found installation waiting lists were rarely referenced, and installation cost detail was often difficult to locate within the service’s key marketing literature.
Some Super-Gigabit broadband providers may be mismanaging customer expectation in this regard, by positioning Super-Gigabit services as simply the ‘fastest’ broadband option within a portfolio of far more easily deployed options – without a waiting list.