Why 2 Gigabit broadband will become the norm sooner than you expect.
This week, SIRO announced that we’re launching Ireland’s first 2Gb consumer broadband service. It’s initially available in Kilkenny from 19 October, but watch this space for further rollout announcements. When I started working on our 2Gb project last year, I got the same reaction from most people I talked to: “Why? After all, SIRO already offers a gigabit service – isn’t 1Gb plenty for just about every home?” It’s a reasonable question, and I gave the same two answers every time.
First: build it and they will come. Ever since I started working on internet services, over twenty-five years ago, we’ve consistently seen that users will find a way to use any size of connection you can provide. One of my first upgrades was putting new software on dialup modems so that they could run at 33kbps – or 0.002% the speed of our new 2Gb service. Even then, people were sceptical – what could users want to do that would need that much bandwidth? Would they pay a premium for it?
More recently, when SIRO started promoting our 1Gb service in 2018, we got the same question – why would anyone possibly need a 1Gb service at home? Three years later, it’s our most popular service, widely used by homes and businesses around the country as the gold standard of broadband connections.
“Fundamentally, we believe people shouldn’t have to think about what their home connection speed is, because it should be faster than they routinely use”.
We want people to stop seeing speed as a limitation to what they can do. You don’t worry about whether your electricity will max out if you turn on another light – and you shouldn’t have to worry about adding another internet-connected device, giving your kids another tablet to stream on, or doing a work video call while someone’s watching a movie. The speed at the wall should be more than you ever need on a given day.
My second answer was that providing extra bandwidth allows our partner retail telcos to be innovative in the services they provide. For example, they might dedicate 500Mb to your gaming console; 500Mb to your remote working devices, to ensure lag-free video conferencing; and 1Gb to the general house Wi-Fi. We already see this happening in other countries where 2Gb services have been around for longer, and we’re looking forward to watching Irish broadband providers use SIRO connection to come up with innovative ways to make the most of the extra bandwidth we can now provide.
“We expect that over time, instead of feeding the entire 2Gb connection to your Wi-Fi, telcos will start to split the speed at the wall and divide it up for you in new ways”.
Upgrading our network to support 2Gb also underscores one of the best things about a fibre connection in your home: unlike part-copper or cable services, it means you’ll never have to upgrade to a better network just because you want more speed or extra services. As demand and technology evolve, we just swap the boxes at each end, and your house will have better, faster service. Upgrading to 2Gb involves a new technology called XGS-PON running across our existing fibre cables. We’re doing this upgrade without having to modify the fibre cables themselves – only the bits at each end need to change. XGS-PON will also allow SIRO to offer SMEs and enterprises a wide range of services, including high-speed symmetric connections with increased upload and download speeds.
As more people move to working from home, businesses increasingly depend on high-quality fibre connections for video calls, remote access, and backing up increasing volumes of data. We saw this in action when we upgraded Cartoon Saloon to our symmetric fibre services during lockdown last year, so that they could continue to work on their Academy Award-nominated film Wolfwalkers while their staff remained safely remote. Getting more businesses online with more reliable fibre connections is key to helping Irish companies evolve and compete globally for both business and talent.
“2Gb services using XGS-PON are one step in the evolution of our network, but they’re certainly not the last”.
In future our 2Gb services will be upgradable to speeds up to 10Gb remotely, without even a site visit, and work is already underway in industry to standardise 20Gb and 50Gb technologies to meet future demand – all over the existing fibre cables. A fibre service to the home or business really is the last broadband connection you’ll ever need.