If there is one thing that gets the average internet-user's goat, it's a connection that crawls. A crying need for speed is all too familiar to broadband users here in India. So, Alcatel-Lucent and BT reaching broadband speeds of 1.4 terabits per second in a joint test in London should make us hope for better. That speed, the BBC says, is the highest ever. To put things in perspective, Google Fiber, Google's high-speed fibre-optic service in the US cities of Austin, Provo and Kansas City, has a typical speed of 1,000 megabits per second—there are 1,024 megabits in a gigabit and 1,024 gigabits in a terabit.
The fact that this speed was achieved outside lab conditions, on a 410-km link between central London and Ipswich, means existing broadband infrastructure (in the UK, at least) is capable of much more than it is delivering at the moment. So, expensive infrastructure upgrades may not be all that necessary. With the demand for greater bandwidth surging, given the growing popularity of data-heavy services like streaming, the development should bring cheer to internet-service providers. The flipside? It is still some years before the average user gets to enjoy these speeds and, there is the concern that packing too much into the fibre lines would result in greater interference and errors. Besides, the average user might not be able to consume data at such voracious rates, making the speeds redundant. However, the last concern is limited in scope with an entire generation (the digital natives) practically living their lives online. Therefore, when, in a connected world, everything—from learning to entertainment—goes digital this speed will not seem breakneck at all. But a reality check for us Indians—we are yet to offer last-mile connectivity; our National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) is still notional, set to miss its March-April 2014 rollout.