With 100Mbps broadband, how fast is fast? Seriously?

6 May 2010

UPC reveals that 100Mbps broadband will be available to more than 500,000 Irish homes by late summer, enabling consumers to download an entire iTunes album in five seconds. Mark Coan is sales and marketing manager at UPC.

Do consumers actually need speeds of 100Mbps yet?

The evidence of that is if you look at the speeds people are buying from us today, two-thirds of our people are getting 15Mbps and 30Mbps, our two top tiers. When we launched those products we were asked exactly the same question. There is a generational shift and a technological shift driving a huge demand for bandwidth in Ireland.

Why is that?

We think the primary cause is Ireland’s young demographic, it is particularly noticeable. You are also seeing it in the technologies available in the marketplace.

The other day my one-year-old dropped our digital still camera on the floor and I went online to replace it and I couldn’t buy a camera that didn’t have high-definition (HD) video on it. The whole technology platforms as they evolve, the providers have to evolve with them.

Plus this generational shift, these guys live online. A house with three teenagers today would have them sat in front of the TV with three different devices; the amount of bandwidth that gets consumed is phenomenal. As well as this, we have 3D TV coming down the track. And if you go back three years, no one was talking about user-generated content.

What kind of applications can 100Mbps broadband speeds enable?

Even before these services and apps open up, the experience of 100Mbps is quite amazing. An iTunes song is an instant download; you could download an album in five seconds. A two-hour movie used to take 24 hours to download; now it takes only three minutes.

The experience is different and it is going to change behaviours. There was a myth that there’s no demand for it – our experience completely belies that. Sixty percent of new additions to our network at present are 15Mbps and 30Mbps users.

What is the rollout schedule for the 100Mbps service?

By August, 350,000 out of 500,000 homes will get it in Dublin, Limerick and Cork.

The fibre is effectively 300 metres away from the average doorstep, in some cases it is nearly to the door. We have spent€330m on unveiling our Docsis 3.0 Fibre Power network since we acquired Chorus NTL. This will enable us to open up all of these services: HD TV, 3D TV, video-on-demand. Having that high bandwidth connection to subscribers enables those services.

How much will the 100Mbps service cost consumers?

We’re going to hold the pricing to nearer the August launch but it’s a consumer product and will be priced competitively.

How do you think 3D TV will do in the Irish market?

Our latest set-top boxes are already 3D TV-ready and we have a good number of subscribers on HD. We are hoping to do a demo of 3D TV for the French Open in June over our network.

3D is coming but there’s limited 3D content out there at the moment. It is important to have the content there. But we believe cable technology is in a better position to do these things.

At the end of the day, if you took the analogy of a motorway, coaxial cable is like a dual carriageway into the home compared with DSL, which is like pushing content in over a dirt track.

By John Kennedy

Photo: Mark Coan, sales and marketing manager at UPC

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years