When Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) first introduced Fiber, its lightning-fast Internet service, to Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri a few years ago, it signaled the beginning of a new era of connectivity. Google Fiber, once it's up and running, means no more worrying about slow downloads and buffering when streaming the latest movie or show off the Internet. And with the proliferation of video expected to continue, the more speed, the better.
But what if Google Fiber, and the host of cable and telecom 1 gigabit per second, or Gbps, solutions that have cropped up since, were left in the proverbial connectivity dust? And what about a solution that offered consumers the fastest Internet connection in history, without tearing up the yards and neighborhoods of residents? Suddenly, all those cities that have been tripping over themselves to woo Fiber to their regions might not be quite so receptive. It could happen, thanks to the folks at Paris-based Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU).
Bell Labs, a division of Alcatel-Lucent, gets the credit for setting the record for the world's fastest Internet connection. At 10 Gbps, Alcatel-Lucent's XG-FAST technology blows the doors off old-school broadband connections. XG-FAST is 1,000 times faster than broadband, and 10 times faster than Google Fiber, taking connectivity to a whole new level.
As impressive as the Bell Labs results are, the manner in which it was able to achieve its world-record speeds is even more remarkable. Unlike Google Fiber, XG-FAST doesn't require running big, fiber pipes into homes or businesses. Why? Because the researchers at Bell Labs were able to achieve 10 Gbps using a fiber cable that then syncs with traditional copper lines.
It works like this: let's say there's a fiber cable on the street and copper pipes are in place in the actual structure, as is the case with most homes and businesses today. That combination of fiber in the street, and copper pipes on site is all XG-FAST needs to deliver 10 Gbps. Don't have fiber pipes in your city or state? Using existing copper pipes, XG-FAST is still able to match Google Fiber's 1 Gbps download speeds, with none of the downsides of installing thousands of miles of fiber cable throughout a city.
What's the big deal?
The popularity of streaming video is exploding thanks to the folks at Netflix, Hulu, and services like them. The result is Internet users require more bandwidth than ever before. In fact, though it's not quite sweeping the nation yet, more and more Americans are ditching cable companies altogether -- "cutting the cord," so to speak--much like using cells phones rather than telephone landlines.
Nearly 20% of Americans go without cable, choosing instead to stream online shows and watch movies courtesy of Netflix and its competitors. Let's face it, who wouldn't want to tell their cable company good riddance? As the need for Internet speed rises, so too will the potential for Google Fiber, let alone Alcatel-Lucent's solution.
Hiccups with Google Fiber
Unfortunately, the rollout of Google Fiber has come with its share of bumps. Before work even begins, local governments are forced to jump through hoops to "apply" for Google Fiber, and there are personnel issues. For example, Austin, Texas is a Google Fiber city, and now, as the serious work is about to begin, the local government has requested $1 million to help fund, "temporary staffing and other efforts related to Google Fiber and AT&T's major fiber optic projects."
You might recall, AT&T was one of several Fiber competitors who suddenly remembered that it, too, could offer faster Internet connections to its customers, but only after Google Fiber came to town.
And it's not just the cost and governmental red tape causing some angst. In Kansas City, Missouri residents have complained to officials that Google Fiber workers tear up their yards, leave huge messes during off-hours, and have broken gas lines, to name a few problems. Alcatel-Lucent's solution requires much less infrastructure, expense, and the headaches associated with laying down Google Fiber's Internet pipes.
Final Foolish thoughts
Unfortunately for streaming video fans, gamers, and cord-cutters, Alcatel-Lucent's record-setting discovery isn't ready for prime-time just yet. However, achieving XG-FAST's 1 Gbps connectivity speed -- matching Google Fiber -- requires little more than existing copper cables, meaning that "slower" versions could be available sooner as opposed to later. How long before Google Fiber's 1 Gbps isn't the best alternative on the block? No way to know for sure, but its coming, and Google Fiber better be ready.