Most of us could not imagine a world without the Internet. I vaguely remember when my parents first got the Internet sometime in the mid 90s. My dad wrote articles for the local newspaper and had to submit them online. Aside from maybe an occasional email, our computer was used for little else. Over the next few years the technology started to change rapidly and develop from dial-up internet to what we are familiar with today. Soon I was instant messaging my friends, doing research for school projects, and downloading music. By the time I graduated from high school, the internet and computers had come a long way and they were not the same as they had been when my dad was submitting articles. YouTube had come into existence, Facebook was changing how people connected around the globe, and I wasn’t downloading just music, I could download entire movies – and fairly quickly too. The demands that I was putting on the network were exponentially higher than they had been only a few years previous and with each year, those demands increased. By the time I graduated from high school in 2007, 74% of Americans were online and they were doing many of the same heavy data usage activities as I was doing.
The ability to stay connected with people around the world has both increased for consumers as well as international companies. The benefits of a connected world are endless and the information that we share across the globe has become enormous. As an international company with 23 locations scattered across the globe, Dynacast constantly relies on the Internet to transmit information and for communication. The intertwined global economy could not operate as successfully as it does today without the Internet. With many businesses relying on cloud based storage solutions, the need to send and retrieve this information is even greater and the quality, consistency, and speed of the networks we use has become more important than ever.
At the forefront of this high-speed connectivity are many prosperous Asian countries like South Korea, Japan, and Singapore. It may be no surprise that these countries top the list of fastest internet speeds in the world, but what may be more surprising is that the US doesn’t even place in the top five. Countries like Latvia and the Czech Republic both have faster average internet speeds. A driving force behind the creation of super high-speed infrastructure is the expansion of fiber optic networks.
Fiber optic communication happens when information is transmitted through pulses of light that travel through an optical fiber. The light uses an electromagnetic carrier wave to move the information. Though the technology was developed in the 1970s, it isn’t until recent history that we began using it widely. Copper wire, which was already buried under our streets for telephone lines, is what most of us are using for many of our internet connections. The installation costs of fiber optic networks are incredibly high, though they are decreasing and companies are realizing that the demands of businesses and consumers are going to force them to modernize their infrastructure.
Google Fiber is one of the first large scale projects being undertaken to totally revamp cities’ internet networks. Google chooses cities across the United States that have been picked for Google’s “Google Fiber” internet. These cities will receive state-of-the-art networks that are capable of 1 gigabit per second speed. This is roughly 100 times faster than what most Americans have. Verizon is the only national internet provider to have created a large-scale fiber optic network in the United States, but the speeds are less than half of what Google has achieved with Google Fiber. Currently, only 7% of Americans have access to a fiber optic internet connection and only 16% of people in the developed world.
Fiber optic networks are going to grow significantly in the next few years. Developing countries are opting to fund fiber optic networks over transportation infrastructure because they realize how important having fast, reliable internet is to their economic growth. The European Commission is striving to have a 100% coverage goal of speeds of 30mbps or better by 2020. In order to achieve this goal, they will rely heavily on fiber optic networks. Faster internet access through fiber optics is one of the main catalysts that will propel societies into the future. Having a reliable and fast internet infrastructure is a major prerequisite for economic prosperity and the countries who invest in it will have a better chance at succeeding in the global economy.