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Hong Kong moves quickly on gigabit broadband

The quest for higher Internet speeds is a never ending one. We all want more speed so we can watch YouTube videos without the buffering, talk to our friends and family on Skype without the dropped calls, hold office in a virtual workspace in real time, and to play games with people around the world without needing to blame our poor performance on lag and disconnections. The Hong Kong-based Hong Kong Broadband Network has moved quickly to roll out gigabit (1,000 Mbps) broadband speeds to its customers for a bargain basement price—USD$26 (Php 1,055) a month.

By comparison, Google has taken steps to launch Google Fiber in the United States, but it is only available in the Kansas City area right now for USD$70 (Php 2,842) a month. Verizon, one of the biggest ISPs in the United States, offers up to 50 megabits download and 20 megabits upload for a rather expensive USD$144.99 (Php 5,886) a month. Currently, high-speed Internet is only available in the Philippines to those who are willing to shell out large amounts of money or enterprise customers who need the bandwidth, and as a result, we have the 115th fastest Internet in the world by average download speed (3.92 Mbps). Compared to developed nations, the United States is 34th (16.01 Mbps), the United Kingdom is 24th (19.39 Mbps), Japan is 7th (33.63 Mbps), and Hong Kong is leading the way in first place (45.41 Mbps).

Despite its low prices, the Hong Kong Broadband Network is turning a profit after taking on a few years of being in the red. “This is an eminently replicable model,” said Benoit Felten, a co-founder of Diffraction Analysis, a Paris-based consulting business. “But not by someone who already owns a network—unless they’re willing to scrap the network.”

“Most broadband markets in the United States today are dominated by one phone company and one cable company,” said Dane Jasper, the chief executive of Sonic.net, an Internet provider based in Santa Rosa, California. “Why doesn’t Verizon offer gigabit service? Because it doesn’t have to.” Verizon justified their top offering, only 150 megabits at USD$195 (Php 7,916) a month by saying, “We offer speeds that exceed what customers can and do use.”

Some United States ISPs are beginning to offer gigabit broadband, but for prices that far exceed the Hong Kong Broadband Network’s pricing. One provider has started offering gigabit service at USD$349.99 (Php 14,208) a month. However, Google has announced plans to partner with Sonic.net and start rolling out its gigabit service to 850 faculty and staff homes in a Stanford University subdivision. “We want to see what developers and users can do with ultra-high speeds, whether it’s creating new bandwidth-intensive ‘killer apps’ and services, or other uses we can’t yet imagine,” Google said on its company blog.

With investors starting to increasingly set up shop in the Philippines, and with the many call centers in the country, will the Philippines start taking affordable gigabit broadband seriously? Only time can tell.

Source: New York Times