How the internet could evolve in coming years

In this latest article in our Insight series of in-depth analyses of all-things property, Queensberry Properties’ sales and marketing director, Hazel Davies, examines possible advances in home internet access, from lightbulb-powered broadband to 6G’s universal accessibility

“Today’s consumers tend to regard internet access as both ubiquitous and long-serving, yet neither of those sentiments is really accurate. Recent research suggests a million UK households have dropped home broadband during the last year, in a bid to reduce monthly expenditure. It’s also easy to forget that as recently as 1999, less than one in ten UK households had an internet connection. Even today, an estimated two per cent of UK adults are doing without any home internet coverage.

“It’s commonly argued that internet access has remained largely unchanged over the years, yet the last three decades have witnessed seismic changes in how we go online. We’ve evolved from dialling through via a desktop computer and modem to high-speed WiFi, via short-lived cul-de-sacs like Midband and ISDN lines. WiFi itself used to depend on the congested 2.4GHz frequency, whereas modern routers offer tri-band coverage that also includes the 5GHz and 6GHz bands. These higher frequencies achieve less range but offer quicker data transfer speeds, with compatible devices automatically switching between frequencies from one millisecond to the next.

“It’s easy to look back and see how far we’ve come, but it’s much harder to predict the future. Even so, there are plenty of clues about how domestic internet access might evolve in the coming years and decades…”

The light fantastic

“Like the zeroes and ones which govern everything digital devices do, light sources have two binary states – on and off. Changing an LED light’s status thousands of times per second enables it to distribute wireless internet access to devices capable of detecting those changes. Perhaps surprisingly, this isn’t new technology; a high school in Ayr was experimenting with LiFi-powered classrooms five years ago.

“Indoor LiFi is extremely difficult to hack if your curtains are closed, making it far safer than today’s leaky WiFi connectivity. However, the requirement for line-of-sight means whole-home broadband routers aren’t viable, and internet access in the garden would be tricky. Then again, we might not need outdoor WiFi coverage for much longer…”

Six appeal

“Many of us are still frustrated by the lack of local 5G phone coverage, so it might seem fatuous to discuss the merits of 6G. It’s not even clear if we’ll need a sixth generation of cellular connectivity, if 5G is ever fully rolled out across the planned frequency spectrum. Delays in 5G coverage are attributable to various issues, from legal battles over Ofcom’s bandwidth auctions through to local scaremongering campaigns against mast installations.

“If 6G ever arrives, it’d provide seamless indoor and outdoor connectivity to fixed and mobile devices alike. There’d be no more switching from mobile data to home broadband as you walk in the door. There might not be any more home broadband full stop, if lightning-quick and universally accessible connectivity banishes blackspots and standardises data speeds”.

The light fast-tastic

“Today’s fibre optic broadband cables carry data at speeds which would have been unthinkable in the days when the final step of data’s journey to your home involved copper telephone lines into the home. The challenge for tomorrow’s internet service providers and network installers won’t be moving data more quickly, but moving more data at the same time.

“Fibre broadband cables are becoming ever larger, and achievable throughput speeds are slowly rising. Last year, a single diameter optical fibre was able to carry data at a rate of 1.53 petabits per second – 1.5 million gigabits of data. Yet many domestic activities use mere kilobits of data. In the same way today’s gigabit home connections are faster than any domestic user could wish for, tomorrow’s internet access will be able to support any data usage at any time and in any quantity, without being remotely stretched”.