History of the Internet: A look into the future
By: Bradley Neale
28 Aug 2020
As we’ve learned, the creation of the internet started a journey that saw communication, commerce, and connectivity evolve at speeds even the most tech savvy couldn’t predict. But where does that journey lead? With 40 years of innovation, and countless leaps in technology; what frontiers are left for the internet to explore?
Well plug in, get comfy and prepare to discover the future of the internet.
Inside your home
Put simply, the internet is information. Information stored, information transmitted, and information downloaded. Each year sees a rise in the total number of people using the internet. It’s estimated that two thirds of the world’s population will be online by 2023 - that’s 5.3 billion people, and a lot of data.
But it’s not only the number of users causing a huge influx of data, it’s the type of media we’re consuming. The rise of streaming services, 4K and VR has seen our average data consumption skyrocket. To use the same analogy we used in an earlier blog, if the internet is a town connected by roads, then increasing data usage means gridlocked traffic and heavy congestion. The solution? Build better roads.
Let’s get you up to speed with how our existing infrastructure works. Most homes maintain their internet connection through fixed-line broadband. This involves running cables from a telephone exchange to the green broadband cabinets that sit on many streets across the UK. These cables then run to each of our homes, where they connect to a broadband router and provide seamless connectivity.
The UK’s online infrastructure is undergoing continuous improvements, including replacing existing copper cables with fibre optic wiring that supercharges our internet speeds. There are two types of fixed-line fibre broadband.
FTTC is the most widely available fibre broadband, covering over 96% of all homes across the UK. It’s exactly what it sounds like - fibre optic cabling from the exchange to the cabinet. It means max speeds of around 80Mbps, a huge improvement over previous copper telephone lines.
FTTP goes the extra mile by extending the fibre optic cabling from the cabinet, straight to your front door. Often called ‘full fibre’, it’s the next step for fixed-line broadband and can offer blistering speeds of 1Gbps, with the potential to reach even higher. That’s over ten times faster than FTTC.
As the media we consume evolves, so must our broadband infrastructure. The government has set its sights on equipping 14 million homes across the country with full fibre by 2025, with the goal of complete UK coverage by 2033. And all of this is because full fibre will allow for much more than fast streaming in multiple rooms. Full fibre is a vital update that will see sweeping changes across both the economy, and the workplace.
Openreach research shows that full fibre will allow 400,000 additional workers to work from home, which can help reduce around 300 million commuting trips annually. Full fibre gigabit speed isn’t a pipe dream, but an essential ambition as we continue to boost digital connectivity among businesses and consumers alike.
Outside your home
So broadband behind four walls will continue to see significant leaps in speed, but what about the great outdoors? Anyone with a smartphone knows the benefits of a steady 4G connection. It can mean the difference between a brisk walk with Google Maps, and a confused expedition navigated by road signs and star charts. Remote internet has come on leaps and bounds with a staggering 87% of UK landmass featuring 4G coverage. But as 3G once evolved, 4G will also level up into a faster, more reliable service.
The successful roll out of 4G has prompted our Government to lay out plans for a segmented 5G upgrade across the UK. We know what you’re thinking, 5G is just one higher than 4G, but trust us, 5G will open the door to new and exciting possibilities. For starters, 5G is the fifth generation of mobile technology that sees your data roaming speeds soar to a minimum of ten times faster than 4G - that means average speeds of around 130 - 250mbps, and that’s just the beginning. As 5G evolves, it’s expected to reach theoretical speeds over 1000 times faster than 4G, meaning 10Gbps speeds and beyond - that’s really, really fast. We’ll also see an increase in coverage and capacity, which means high data traffic areas will be able to handle a greater number of devices without slowdown.
Sure it’s a faster, more reliable upgrade, but it’s also much more. 5G is driving cutting-edge technological upgrades across a number of markets including agriculture, transport and healthcare.
With more cars set to drive into 5G capability, now might be a good time to put it in neutral and briefly outline the internet of things. The internet of things is a concept that covers just that; the ‘internet’, ‘things’ and the growing connectivity between them. As the internet has evolved, so have the ways we use it. For example, the growing list of everyday items that have internet functionality including watches, thermostats, and even toothbrushes. By 2023 there’ll be more than 29 billion devices connected to IP addresses around the world, over three times the global population. But how is increased connectivity affecting our transport?
The days where our cars were no more than wheels, gears and axle grease are behind us, as our vehicles take further strides from automotive, to automated. Fully assisted, accident-free self-driving cars may be a while away yet, but 5G enhanced automobiles are closer than you think. Researchers at ABI Research predict that we’ll see the first 5G cars on our roads by 2022, and see a staggering increase of nearly 43 million by 2030. 5G functionality will make the modern smart car even smarter, with increased awareness of road conditions including congestion and weather changes. Cars will also better communicate with each other, greatly increasing safety and reducing risk of collisions. The 5G Automotive Association is a global organisation created to bridge the gap between Telecommunications industry and vehicle manufacturers. With titans of industry such as AUDI AG, and BMW Group aligned with the likes of Ericsson and Huawei, it won’t be long till horsepower and processing power are hand in hand.
On 8 January 2019, a test animal in China successfully underwent liver removal surgery. The operation would have been routine, save for one, tiny detail - the surgeon was 30 miles away. This milestone marked the first ever remote surgery using a 5G network. Its success has opened the door for similar procedures that no longer require surgeon and patient to be in the same postcode. The success of the surgery was made possible with the low latency of 5G. Latency is sometimes referred to as ‘lag’, and is the technical term for the length of time before a command is actioned over an internet connection. During the remote surgery, the latency was as low as a tenth of a second, greatly minimalising the risk of a similar procedure performed with the higher latency of 4G. Since the first successful 5G operation, more have followed, including a gallbladder removal and even brain surgery.
The benefits of 5G will touch all areas of medical care. The ability to transfer huge sums of data will improve quality of service and reduce wait times. 5G will also enable future technological developments such as AI assistants, rehabilitation treatments with AR and VR, and numerous mobile devices that can monitor citizens with underlying health conditions.
The world of broadband grows larger every moment. With most industries, it’s nigh-on impossible to overstate the systemic leap forward that 5G and fibre will enable. There are even plans in place to even provide Mars with access to our world wide web, proving that for the future of the internet, not even the sky is the limit. Check out our broadband packages by visiting our broadband page.