Want ultra-broadband? Then visit Goonhilly?
Goonhilly, which is one of four earth stations operated by BT, is to offer a 100Mbps connection for use in its Internet cafe. BT are billing it as 'probably the world's fastest internet café'. The word 'probably' is very much a key point, because 100Mbps is not that an uncommon connection speed for home users in Korea and Japan. Once you realise the amount of traffic that Goonhilly handles in terms of Atlantic fibre connections and satellite transmissions, using 100Mbps for the Internet cafe should be a mere drop in the ocean for the connectivity to the site.
Computer Business Review as well as other journals have picked up on the news, and are making it sound as if 100Mbps broadband connections are something we may see in the home soon. Alas the truth is that while anyone can have a 100Mbps connection now, not everyone has the bank balance to install it or run it. The reality for what we can expect from the BT Group in respect to national broadband products can be read about in the PDF document - 'Broadband Access Speeds in the Fixed Network'.
So what does the future hold? Well the document was published in March 2006, just before the Max products were available across much of the country, and estimates of 60% of customers managing a 5Mbps line speed are made, though if broadband take-up exceeded 25% by a large margin then increased crosstalk may reduce the maximum line speeds. Something like 78% of customers should in theory manage 2Mbps. So what next? Well companies like Be, Bulldog and UK Online are rolling out ADSL2+, and it seems BT has this on the cards, but the deployment of ADSL2+ by BT is linked to its 21st Century Network (21CN) plans. In other words until the 21CN roll-out is complete which is pencilled in for around 2008, maybe 2009 we should expect BT to rely on the original ADSL standard. This means that we should not expect ADSL2+ to be available in the near future, if BT sticks to an exchange based roll-out of ADSL2+, then we can expect perhaps 50% of customers getting 8Mbps line speeds. The other option is to shorten the length of copper cable used in the telephone line by deploying Fibre to the Cabinet technology (FTTC), these trials are still underway, and no commitment to a roll-out appears to have been made.