Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) has been making waves with its plan to build gigabit-speed fiber-optic networks here and there. Starting in Kansas City (both the Kansas and Missouri versions), Big G is running in superfast network connections to businesses, homes, and public institutions, with plans to make them available at "competitive prices." Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) is a major partner in these trials, and a large-scale upgrade of the Kansas City, Kan., backbone connections coincided with Google's announcement.
We'll see what magic might transpire from ultra-connected communities. Google expects to then take its megaband installations elsewhere.
But don't fret if Mountain View leaves you cold. There will soon be many other ways to get a superfast connection, and most don't require expensive fiber-optic cable pulls.
You don't even have to wait
Right now, Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA ) is running speed-boosting experiments on many of its subscribers. By bundling more bandwidth channels together into a single connection, Comcast can boost the uploading speeds of many connections today over the plain old coaxial cable you already have.
In theory, doubling the number of DOCSIS channels per connection should double the speed. Given that we're starting at a maximum of 5 megabits per second for a standard account today, that's a far cry from gigabit speeds -- 1% of those fiber-powered speeds, in fact. Still, anything that revs up your connection is a positive move, and the link-ups are also said to be more reliable this way.
Oh, come on!
If that didn't float your boat, maybe this will: Comcast is also demonstrating the ability to push a full gigabit connection over existing infrastructure.
Using already-installed fiber and coax cables but newfangled back-end routing hardware to make it all possible, Comcast sent a whole season of 30 Rock to the 2011 NCTA showroom in about 90 seconds and then took a bow for the achievement. Internet backbones are becoming increasingly dependent on fiber optics these days, so a part-fiber demo is hardly cheating. The key here is that coaxial cable can carry this kind of traffic the last mile.
There's no word on making this level of connections available to consumers and businesses, nor on potential pricing or just how many concurrent high-speed pipes the system could handle before choking. But it's an inspiring demo nonetheless, and you can bet that rivals Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC ) , Charter Communications (Nasdaq: CHTR ) , and Cablevision Systems (NYSE: CVC ) are working on something similar behind the scenes.
Do you believe?
Maybe you have a high-speed connection available but just aren't willing to pay hundreds of dollars per month for the privilege of using it? You might want to move to California.
You see, privately held Sonic.net is offering a gigabit of goodness for the very reasonable price of $70 per month around its Silicon Valley service area. The little company that manages Google's fiber test around the Stanford campus is only dipping its proverbial toe into these affordable high-speed waters for now, starting with Sebastopol, Calif. "Honestly, only as those wrap up will we have a complete picture of the economic model," says Sonic.net CEO Dane Jasper to tech trendster Ars Technica. "But I believe that fast service for a low cost is possible."
Jasper looked at European high-speed services for inspiration, saying that the current model of limiting speeds to create artificial pricing tiers is the wrong model. I hope he's right.
But wait -- there's more!
If a gigabit per second isn't fast enough for you, look no further than cable technologist Arris Group (Nasdaq: ARRS ) . At the same NTCA show as Comcast's high-speed demo, Arris showed off a record-breaking 4.5 gigabits of sustained bandwidth to a single node, bundling 128 cable channels into one connection.
That's more of a backbone connection than something you'd pull to your home, but it's a clear demonstration of the ultra-fast potential in properly designed cable systems. "These record-breaking bandwidth levels may be required for large-scale IP video systems in the future," said Arris' PR materials.
Some companies depend on fast, reliable network connections. Others, like Arris, make their bread by creating those networks. Grab a copy of this free report showing how Arris positions itself for excellence in 2011 and beyond. High-speed connections are coming, and Arris is sure to play a large part in that explosion.