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10 must-know facts about Gigabit Societies

Erik Brenneis
CEO, Vodafone Global Enterprise

If you haven’t heard the term ‘Gigabit Society’ before, you really only need to know one thing: that you’ll soon be living in one.

We’re edging ever-closer to living in the kinds of cities and towns first envisioned in 1950s sci-fi. Driverless cars, VR surgery, drone delivery, smart AI assistants, and truly real-time information sharing are all coming, but how fast we get to that point depends on how quickly we can work together to provide the necessary infrastructure. By evolving our underlying networks, we can help bring 1Gbps throughput and data speeds to every device in every industry, benefitting countries, communities and people. And that’s where things get really interesting, allowing us to move towards true Gigabit Societies.

So what is a ‘Gigabit Society’? In broad terms, it’s one in which every home, business, vehicle and mobile device is capable of tapping into data throughput speeds of up to 1000Mbps, or 125MBps, with incredibly low latency. That means that data can move between points without any noticeable delay, and over distances up to 1000km in mere milliseconds Connectivity is no longer restrained to the capacity of the network, but defined and controlled by each specific requirement we have. And that will revolutionise industries and change lives around the world.

Want some specifics? No problem. Here are 10 must-know facts about the ‘Gigabit Society’ ideal, and how it will change our lives for the better...

  1. Gigabit Societies will need high speed fibre connectivity
    We’ll realise the idea of Gigabit Societies when we fully adopt high speed fibre and replace copper and other legacy connections as our means of delivering fixed network coverage. 4G and 5G will also be key drivers. However, there are some hurdles to jump before we can see that technology deployed in a widespread fashion. We’ll cover off the way in which we’ll smash through those barriers in a coming post, but in simple terms there’s a heavy cocktail of political, financial, technical and regulatory factors – all of which need to be overcome as soon as possible and with the support of a number of different governmental, industry and business bodies.

  2. Gigabit tech will eventually be everywhere
    Despite the challenges, there’s no doubting that we’ll soon be living in Gigabit Societies. And the influence of these high speeds will be felt in a myriad places in different infrastructural categories: Gigabit offices, Gigabit houses, Gigabit clusters (such as universities), Gigabit districts (as in smart cities) and Gigabit nations. An existence where the network has evolved to become our digital enabler, giving us boundless and real-time access to technology.
    Each instance will offer life-changing examples of technology benefitting from the increase in data speeds, from medicine to transport, and gaming to education...

  3. Gigabit Societies will save lives
    Among the many verticals that Gigabit technology will benefit is the healthcare field. Quick stat time: on legacy networks, the average time it takes to send the data from a 2GB CT scan between hospitals is 14 minutes. In a Gigabit Society that time drops to 40 seconds. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. With the global digital health market expected to exceed $200bn by 2020, the speed at which digital information can travel is going to make huge differences to people’s lives and wellbeing.

    Potential applications in the field are hugely varied, but include things like remote patient appointments and monitoring via HD video on the basic end – which will reduce waiting times at hospitals and free up doctors’ time – and advanced remote monitoring via connected wearable devices as things develop. In that situation, vitals like blood pressure, heart rate, hydration and sleep levels could be monitored automatically and around the clock. The more data a doctor has to look at, the better the diagnosis, but beyond that there’d be an obvious improvement in emergency response times thanks to devices which could flag warning signs automatically.

    To top it all off, Gigabit data speeds will make possible a future in which people can be operated on at the scene of an accident by robots which are controlled in real time by surgeons back at the hospital.

  4. They’ll transform education
    With the right technology to empower the curriculum, the next generation of children will never experience classroom boredom again. While schools are already imbuing students with tablets and laptops to enhance their learning, a faster future means virtual field trips to remote, inaccessible places like the deep ocean can become the norm.

    But Gigabit infrastructure can help at all levels of education – not just in schools. The same live-streamed virtual reality that would empower those immersive field trips could also be used to train pilots, rescuers and engineers in what to do in high risk scenarios, from low-risk environments, while massive open online courses (MOOCs) will allow thousands of participants to stream online courses as if they were present in a real classroom And with that many people enrolled, MOOCs will be able to utilise AI algorithms to tailor the experience to each student based on their performance and learning styles.

  5. Gigabit tech will make us all much safer
    Embedding better surveillance in public spaces for the purpose of safety will become an easier task with faster data speeds and smarter technology. Cameras with built-in AI algorithms, for instance, will be able to use logic to sense potentially threatening situations before they happen and trigger an emergency response, while the ability to capture, save and stream higher definition pictures will make it more difficult to perpetrate crimes in public and private spaces alike.

  6. ...And help save the environment
    The way we have traditionally accessed power from utility companies and energy networks is not very smart. Currently, power is funnelled to our houses and offices passively, resulting in huge wastage and a lack of data with which to improve things. With Gigabit infrastructure working alongside smart monitoring solutions, that could all change; allowing energy networks to keep a beady eye on usage at different stages of the day, week, month and year, and pre-emptively feed the required amounts to power grids as we need it. These smart systems will keep power grids balanced in real time, from a multitude of sources, and help us dramatically cut consumption and CO2 emissions.

  7. Gigabit Societies will also create jobs
    New technology always creates new jobs, and in some cases whole new sectors. And while it’s true that putting the requisite infrastructure in place for Gigabit Societies will require a huge amount of fresh manpower, it’ll be nothing compared to what will be required to staff the new applications, business models and companies which will arise as a result of these faster data speeds. Better still, having pervasive Gigabit speeds around whole nations will lessen the need to centralise specific jobs and fields around urban areas – people will be able to work in a multitude of industries from a much wider range of places.

  8. Gigabit speeds will usher in a new generation for gaming and entertainment
    The Gigabit ideal will be life-changing in more ways than one, but it’ll also be game-changing. With faster and more robust data speeds, the entertainment industry, which is increasingly based online, will be able to access and unlock new technologies that’ll let developers and creators bring incredible new worlds to life.

    Current legacy networks struggle to keep up with current streaming demands, but – at its most basic – Gigabit connections will allow us to download our 4K movies in minutes as opposed to hours – but the possibilities get really exciting when looking at the burgeoning worlds of virtual reality and online multiplayer servers. As these two technologies merge together, high throughput and low latency will become a necessity – especially for experiences in which multiple players are experiencing the same virtual environment at once and in real-time. Gigabit will allow these worlds to come to life like never before.

  9. Gigabit technology will revolutionise transport
    1Gbps data speeds will be huge news for transport, since they’ll allow the much touted ‘smart cities’ concept to come fully to fruition. Smart cities use vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure technologies to completely streamline traffic and public transit services. In a time when driverless cars become the norm, vehicles will be able to send and receive signals to and from traffic lights, other cars, nearby drones and emergency service vehicles to create cities that never enter gridlock, no matter how busy they get. Smart cities will also alter bus and rail services in real time depending on demand, saving energy and cutting emissions.

  10. You can find out lots more about Gigabit Societies in our in-depth report
    Everything mentioned so far is just a taster of what will be possible in the near future. We’ll soon be looking at some specific case studies, and at the way we’ll realise the Gigabit dream, but for a truly end-to-end view you can read more in our ' Creating a Gigabit Society ' report.

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