Still early days for 10Gbps fibre

The lack of applications and the need for specialised computers and networking hardware to utilise a 10Gbps connection are reasons cited by MyRepublic and StarHub for not launching 10Gbps fibre plans yet.
The lack of applications and the need for specialised computers and networking hardware to utilise a 10Gbps connection are reasons cited by MyRepublic and StarHub for not launching 10Gbps fibre plans yet.BT FILE PHOTO

Lack of apps and expensive hardware required mean it isn't likely to be adopted by the mainstream just yet

Heavy Internet users here, especially gamers, online traders and those who crave high-speed connections, got a dramatic boost in the last month.

Four Internet service providers (ISPs) have recently introduced 10Gbps home fibre plans, quintupling the previous top broadband speed for Singapore homes.

At these speeds, users can download an entire 50GB Blu-ray disc in under a minute. Other benefits touted by ISPs include streaming multiple ultra-high-definition 4K videos at the same time without lag and smooth online gaming.

Singtel started the trend last month with a 10Gbps home fibre plan that costs $189 a month.

Currently, M1, Singtel, SuperInternet and ViewQwest offer 10Gbps high-speed fibre plans priced from $189 to $218 monthly with a one- or two-year contract. In comparison, 1Gbps fibre plans start from $39.

NO REAL ADVANTAGE YET

There is in reality very little real-life advantages of having a 10Gbps line over a 1Gbps line today because 1Gbps is fast enough for the vast majority of consumers.

MR VIGNESA MOORTHY, ViewQwest chief executive.

These 10Gbps plans promise maximum download speeds of between 8Gbps and 10Gbps.

Upload speeds top out at between 2.5Gbps and 10Gbps.

Mr Vincent Low, chief strategist at Akamai Technologies, said that Internet speeds continue to improve because consumers demand higher-quality videos. Those who use streaming video services or video conferencing will enjoy a better viewing experience with a 10Gbps connection, he said.

Senior analyst Clement Teo of market research firm Forrester feels that ISPs are offering such high-speed plans because the present fibre infrastructure is already capable of these speeds. "It is better to have the highway (10Gbps) ready as it can stimulate interest and lead to new apps," he said.

ViewQwest chief executive Vignesa Moorthy echoed the view, saying "there is in reality very little real-life advantages of having a 10Gbps line over a 1Gbps line today because 1Gbps is fast enough for the vast majority of consumers" but he added that "new applications will emerge that can take full advantage" of 10Gbps speeds.

HARDWARE AND APPS PLAYING CATCH-UP

The lack of applications and the need for specialised computers and networking hardware to utilise a 10Gbps connection are reasons cited by MyRepublic and StarHub for not launching 10Gbps fibre plans yet. A spokesman for MyRepublic said that "consumer home connectivity solutions cannot support 10Gbps and will likely remain so for the near future".

Similarly, StarHub said it will expand its fibre broadband offerings when "devices that support higher speeds become affordable for the mass market".

Users need a high-end computer with a 10GbE Ethernet adapter to enjoy 10Gbps speeds. These computers, which can cost around $3,000, are unavailable from consumer PC manufacturers. Subscribers have to upgrade their computers or build a custom system. In addition, wireless speeds currently top out at around 1Gbps, so one cannot get 10Gbps speeds on a mobile device.

To address the PC hardware issue, ViewQwest partnered local PC builder Aftershock to launch 10Gbps-ready computers.

But there are no 10Gbps home routers in the market yet.

Both M1 and Singtel will lend a 10Gbps optical network router to each subscriber.

However, ViewQwest's 10Gbps subscribers will have to fork out around $1,500 for a suitable router. SuperInternet, too, does not provide a router.

Given the prohibitive cost and its niche applications, Mr Teo expects 10Gbps fibre to be some way off reaching mainstream adoption.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2016, with the headline 'Still early days for 10Gbps fibre'. Print Edition | Subscribe