Thus it was way back when, more precisely in 1916 – politicians argued hotly over appropriate stables and adequate feed – but they were missing something vital: Out there, in the real world, cars had long replaced carriages, because motor vehicles were faster. Therefore, a hundred years ago politicians should have debated a nationwide network of petrol stations.
Absurd? Let’s zoom this thought experiment into the present day. Four years ago, the federal government decided to provide Germany with a nationwide network that would be able to transport at least 50 megabits of data per second. In their Bundestag decision politicians promised “fast Internet for everyone” by 2018, and the clock is ticking.
It is already foreseeable today that in two years, the 50 megabits per second target will be met with a tired yawn. The modern and soon deployable 5G technology is much faster – and companies are demanding it throughout the country. They need data rates in the gigabit range if Industry 4.0 is to seriously start with its networked machines and devices.
Still, data in Germany is dawdling on the Internet: 12.9 megabits per second was the average at the end of 2014. With the help of “vectoring” the data rate on copper lines manages to surpass the 50-megabit hurdle, but not much more. “This could be a significant competitive disadvantage for the local economy in the near future,” according to the study The Way to the Gigabit Society, conducted by researchers of the IW Consult on behalf of Vodafone Institute.
At the end of the year, only 59 per cent of companies possessed broadband connections of at least 50 megabits per second, and in rural areas only 29 per cent. “Many company clusters outside cities urgently need fast Internet”, warned IW Cologne director Michael Huether at the Digitising Europe Summit, where he presented the study.
The Path Away from Copper
Those who want to send gigabits in seconds need to be free of copper and move on to glass fibre. The South Koreans understand this, and have already laid 70 per cent of their connections in fibre-optic lines. Sweden is at 46 per cent, Norway at 31 per cent, and Portugal at 24 per cent. And Germany? 1.3 per cent.