Gigabit-Speed ​​Internet Still in Only 15% of US Internet Homes

The telecommunications industry is about to spend a fortune upgrading its broadband networks so that they can deliver lightning-fast multi-gigabit speeds, symmetrically across downstream and upstream channels.

But nearly five years after Comcast completed its nationwide rollout of 1 gigabit per second Internet service, only 15.4% of US broadband homes subscribe to 1 gigabit service.

The latest report from OpenVault Broadband Insights (OVI) reveals that gig speed adoption is accelerating – 1 Gbps subscribers accounted for just 11.4% of households in Q3 2021.

But the vast majority of the market seems to be successfully streaming Netflix, doing e-learning, and quitting Twitter using more pedestrian speeds of 200Mbps to 400Mbps (see OVI chart below).

(Image credit: OpenVault Broadband Insights)

Is the demand for a near-term “10G” future really a thing?

Armed with case studies of future usage paradigms requiring super-fast speeds and ultra-low latency – think remote surgery – cable companies and other telecoms are insisting that the massive investment in infrastructure remains a vital necessity.

So how much are we talking about?

On Tuesday, Elad Nafshi, Executive Vice President and Chief Network Officer of Comcast Cable, surprised investors at the RBC Capital Markets Global Technology, Internet, Media and Telecommunications Conference (opens in a new tab) when he said the “middle split” needed to deliver symmetric multi-gigabit speeds over Comcast’s current DOCSIS 3.1 hybrid fiber coaxial (HFC) network would cost less than $200 per past household.

The investment, Nafshi said, “is not entirely incremental because in many ways we would need to make this investment for capacity increases anyway.”

Comcast said earlier it would begin introducing symmetric multi-gig speeds to its customers in 2023, completing rollout to 50 million homes by 2025.

According to “the calculation on the back of the napkin” carried out by light reading (opens in a new tab)Nafshi’s statement means that switching 50 million homes with multi-gig services will cost Comcast less than $10 billion – a bargain, given that full fiber-to-the-home delivery would cost $1,000 per past household ($50 billion in total).

The move, however, would only “lay the groundwork”, light reading said, for upgrades to a next-generation “10G” standard like Full Duplex DOCSIS 4.0 – at a cost that would cost tens of billions more.

Usage continues to climb

OVI’s Q3 2022 “Broadband Insights” report shows that broadband usage demands in the United States continue to grow at a rapid rate. The average subscriber household used 495.5 gigabytes of data in the third quarter compared to 434.9 GB a year ago.

(Image credit: OpenVault Broadband Insights)

Meanwhile, the number of “power users” — subscriber households who consume 1 terabyte of data each month or more — continues to grow, especially for those on flat-rate service plans.

According to the OVI, 14.6% of flat-rate households now fall under the definition of experienced user. In fact, 2.3% of this cohort consumed 2 TB or more in the third trimester.

(Image credit: OpenVault Broadband Insights)

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