Ah upgrades. It seems we buy a new piece of technology, have some fun for a few months, and then *poof* it is obsolete. Things are certainly moving quickly but there is an area of technology which is about to hit it’s theoretical limits.
I have been following with great interest the Google fiber optic initiative in Kansas City. Basically Google is going to wire the whole town with fiber optic cables all the way to individual houses.
This is significant for several reasons.
- Google is making this happen, not a cable company or cell phone company. Essentially it is an IT company doing communications, not a communications company doing IT.
- This matters because with a communications company they have an interest in making sure their bandwidth is finite. The more scarce a resource is, the more you can charge for it. That’s why you are seeing the end of unlimited bandwidth plans with cell phones.
- Google on the other hand makes money the more you use the net. More bandwidth is better for them. It’s a different business model. They are attacking their competitor’s weakness.
- This will boost the ability of Kansas City to attract high tech businesses. Not because the businesses necessarily need the bandwidth, but because their high tech workers will love the bandwidth.
- This sort of system could make public wifi actually practical (and economical).
- Fiber optics opens up fields like true virtual reality, very high resolution telepresence, and all sorts of remote sensing applications.
- The last reason (and the reason I wrote this post today) is that once you have a fiber optic connection directly to your house, then it won’t need to ever be replaced. That sounds weird right? I’m serious though. Fiber optics transmit light pulses. They can support multiple simultaneous pulses at every frequency of the spectrum. Literally, we don’t know yet what the upper limit of the amount of information that can be transmitted. I think the current speed record is something like transmitting the Library of Congress in 4 seconds. Don’t quote me on that, I’m too lazy to go find out right now.
Fiber optics is only as fast as the equipment connecting the ends so those parts will be upgraded over time but the cable that they lay to your house is a one shot deal. I can’t wait for mine!
(Here’s an interesting story about the project)