broadband Cloud End User

What Will the Broadband Speed Needs of 2023 Be?

latest list of BT FTTC exchanges announcedSome time ago I wrote that the laptop of today is the SuperComputer of 12 years ago.  The SuperComputing community is constantly pushing forth the boundaries. Of course these computers need to talk to each other – that data has to go somewhere.

Because of this that research community is also having to push the envelope on data connectivity speeds and a team from Caltech and the University of Victoria has just demonstrated 186Gbps data transfer over a 100Gig connection (the sum of data speeds – both directions obviously).

OK this is all good stuff but so what you say?  Well just like the SuperComputer of today is the laptop of 12 years hence there will come a time when 100Gigs is going to be mainstream for home and business connectivity. There is no point in hitting me with arguments suggesting otherwise. You are wrong 🙂

I don’t know what these data rates are going to be used for but used they will be. I am going to bookmark this day in 2023 to write a blog post reviewing progress towards this goal. By that time my laptop will be able to do 10.51 petaFLOPS (the current fasted SuperComputer is The K computer – it consists of 88,000 SPARC64 VIIIfx CPUs, and spans 864 server racks).

This is why I occasionally mention that really the only sensible long term investment for broadband speed infrastructure is fibre because in 12 years time I will need something that can handle the output of all those petaFLOPS. Who can argue with that?

Trefor Davies

By Trefor Davies

Liver of life, father of four, CTO of, writer, poet,

17 replies on “What Will the Broadband Speed Needs of 2023 Be?”

Agree totally, and infinity is the biggest effinflop of all time. We are being throttled and capped and innovation is being stiffled in this country by the good old boys protecting their copper assets. As a very good friend is prone to sing ‘cmon baby light my fibre’.
Bring IT ON.
I hope I am still here when you write that blogpost, but if I am gone to the great cloud in the ether by then – please remember I agreed with you.

Cough, Infinity is also the name of the BT Retail FTTP product, and continuing to moan about Infinity helps to perpetuate the idea that FTTC/FTTP is ONLY available from BT Retail.

Long term to me is the 10+ year window, and the financial institutions and political system tend to mean projects with 10 to 20 year terms are very rare, or take ten years to even start.

We will get to a fibre heavy situation, FTTC does not preclude upgrades to FTTP at a later date. Its either FTTC now, or a slow 10% a year of FTTH, i.e. take 10+ years and around £1-£2 bn a year to do it.

As for old boy network, like all businesses you protect what is actually paying your salary.

Whilst our computers now may be capable of those speeds, they largely sit there idle, and transfer far less data between them than super computers! It’s possible that we might have 100gig network connections on our computers by then, but I imagine we will barely use them. Much like our current 1Gbps connections, which are a lot of the time, barely used with just a 2 / 10 / 20 / 50meg net connection..

In 2000 the fastest domestic uk broadband was 500kbps, today it’s 100mbps so that’s 200x growth. At the time 100mbps was the top end of what was wired in the office, today it’s only grown to 1g. FTTH is the only way forward…

I think, the more that Software Developers continue to be sloppy and lazy in their coding, Microsoft exist, people remain blind and blinkered to the need for speeds they don’t actually really need etc. etc. then supercomputing hardware capabilities and superfast broadband will be a necessary evil.

Personally I’d rather see rural communities and those in areas of the country who get poor speeds start to get 10mb up and down at the very least so they can at least feel loved again by those of us spoilt for choice.

History has shown that trying to predict the future of technology doesn’t always pan out quite how you expect and trying to predict what people will need / want is even harder. I for one once hoped to be living in a home on the moon by now 🙂 .

Still you can look at a graph of internet growth over the past few years, such as from Cisco’s VNI, and then extrapolate an average requirement from that against a weighting of speed growth. But the “need” factor is still very difficult to standardise.

I don’t have the time for that so instead I’ve looked at the growth of “average” (real-world) speed since broadband came into being (for the UK) around the year 2000. Between 2000 and 2011 I reckon the average growth was about +0.8Mbps per year (very difficult to pin down as the data set is extremely patchy).. this is just an educated guess of sorts and gives us around 8-9Mbps average at the end of 2011.

Right, so, let’s now assume that this will effectively double over the next 12 years because of fibre based solutions and other improvements. So the average gain becomes +1.6Mbps per year. In essence by 2023 the UK average speed should be around 28Mbps.

I agree with @Boggits. Who would have thought only a few years back when we were able to move from dial-up speeds of 36.6Kbs to a blistering 56Kbs. Why would we have needed more than that?

Now we are talking about 10Mbs, 20, 30, 1Gbs so we have to ensure that any investment in broadband infrastructure is future proof and will not be a waste of money should it have to be done again in 5-10 years time. Until fairly recently I would have been happy to sit back and accept what would be offered by BT, Virgin and the other large telcos, but I think if the UK wants to be a serious player in the Digital Age then fibre has to be the only future-proof option.

We can talk about the other options, WiFi, satellite, VDSL etc. and they do have valid applications but they all have their drawbacks. I have to say that I’m impressed at what data rates can be squeezed out of the copper network, but there has to be a limit. It would seem that thankfully, due to there being lots of debate around this subject, the big players are starting to sit up and listen, which can only be a good thing. As the public become more informed as to what options are available and the pros and cons, they will put more pressure on the people that make the decisions around the future infrastructure.

@John Hunt makes a valid point on network and bandwidth usage, but personally I don’t see computers being the main user of bandwidth in the next 5-10 years. The likes of IPTV, VOIP, video calling etc will not be dependant on having a PC.

It’s a great debate though and I’m glad people are discussing it more. regardless of your viewpoint, more discussion around this can only be a good thing.

Mark you are a real party pooper. You need to look a the speeds available. The average growth is going to accelerate next year as people move over to FTTC – 40 or 80 Megs. Then BT have a 300Meg product in the pipeline – Virgin already has 100Megs (might be more).
Cmon, cmon, we need vision here 🙂

Hehehe well in that case I’ve no doubt that 400Mbps – 1Gbps will be quite common for “advertised rates” but as a consumer advocate I care more about what people will actually receive. Home services are shared. Even after years of FTTH South Korea averages 14-20Mbps and this has recently been going down as operators stretch capacity to improve their business models.

So I think the reality is real-world speeds in 2023 will be around the 30-40Mbps mark. Many people will not select the top speeds and the cheapest/most contended services will continue to weigh the performance score away from advertised rates.

We had 2M broadband in Finchley back in 1995.

still see alot of nonsense from people who think bandwidth or infrastructure is free! these jokers crack me up!

Hmmm … nobody mentioning synchronous rates? Do we really think it’s all going to be bandwidth consumption in one direction?

I guess all the cloud vendors wanting to own your data have got it wrong then?

@netazen you are falling into the trap of assuming that rural dwellers have only slow broadband and urban dwellers are spoilt for choice. My brother lives in a very small town in the borders, Innerleithen. He already has a choice between adsl and Virgin Media and complains about only having 10 meg broadband. Here in a town of around 60,000, Livingston, just outside Edinburgh and I have a choice of 2 meg adsl or nothing else. So it’s not as simple as rural-slow, urban-fast.

So what will we use all this data for, and I mean individuals, not shared in companies or data centers.

What do we do? We see and hear. Many years were spent trying to move music from one place to another and finally the world ended up with the 44.1kHz CD. There seems to be little need or demand for anything better.

So having sorted sound what next? Video. Assuming that in the future we won’t want to store locally what’s the data rate for video needed. Depends on screen size and definition. So currently about 10M per user? But as screen sizes increase…

What will Office 2023 (!) do and what will the applications be?

All good questions Somerset. The great thing about this human race of ours is not only our ability to ask questions but also our great capacity to answer them. Look at the Higgs Boson! Penicillin, the Rosetta Stone!! The list is extensive.

I for one am excited at the opportunities that lie ahead to answer the questions (said with a high folluting ethereal voice whilst gazing intently into the distance).

One day you will have the answers and I hope we are all here to discuss them on 🙂

@Domnhall – No not really I know all too well services are poor in City’s let alone just rural hence why I stated “those who get poor speeds in other areas of the country.” For example If I took a wbc or wbmc BT service I would get 1mbps from my exchange in the heart of Bolton, one of the largest towns in the UK. I’m fortunate though that Virgin can provide me with a cable connection even though I have to say at peak times even that is not that brilliant either as they traffic manage it into neigh on useless at peak times. I also have a Zen ADSL service at my kids home in Derbyshire which gives me 9mbps over ADSL WBMC and which works well enough most of the time and I have had that circuit in for over 7 years (including pre ADSL2+). It’s never missed a beat and I’m very close to the exchange on that one yet still only get 9mbps. When it does have a slowdown it has always been due to contention in the BT exchange.

What I’m saying is we need to see some consistency and a universal service offering that gives sufficient bandwidth contended or not to allow people to utilise the Net and what it has to offer. The Government set a 2Mb minimum a while back which was a joke. For the majority of users they need a service offering that provides a decent amount of bandwidth for streaming services (iPlayer, Love Film etc.) You really only need around 4Mb to watch a film – The problem comes when you have multiple devices all wanting to utilise streaming and other services. Personally I find 9Mbps with a house full of devices (x2 iPad’s, three laptops, a desktop, one server, an iPod, PS3 and Three Mobile phones) manage fine on 10-20mb with a 100 gig allowance per month is just about stretching it so 15Mb-20Mb would be fine.

When something like that will become standard for all, whether it’s ADSL2+, FTTC or FTTP is anyone’s guess but we need to see something that gives a minimum offering of around 10mb down and 2mb up at the very least if more people are to enjoy what is available to many, rather than the poor offerings and choice many still have to face be they Rural or City dwellers.

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