So-called superfast broadband is the next generation of internet technology, which will herald yet another communications revolution as it becomes mainstream over the coming years.
At present, the average internet speed in the UK is about six megabits per second (MBs) – though many rural areas still struggle far below this level.
But through the use of new fibre optic cables, laid beneath the streets in place of traditional copper telephone wires, much higher speeds are possible. Unlike copper, fibre optics can carry vast amount of data at lightning speeds, with no drop-off in quality as it travels along the cable.
They therefore enable the possibility of superfast broadband, generally defined as speeds of 25Mbs and above – and potentially as high as 100 Mbs and beyond.
Having the internet running at such high speeds will mean far more than simply ensuring websites load more quickly.
Firstly, numerous family members will be able to use the internet for their own bandwith-hungry applications at the same time – increasingly important as homes acquire more and more devices which operate online.
Watching high-definition television over the internet – either live or on demand – is likely to become the norm, while video calling will move from being a peripheral, grainy affair into a mainstream, HD activity.
And as the technology becomes widely available, it is expected to radically change the way people live, work and access services.
Far more people will work from home, being able to speak to colleagues “face to face” over their computer and pass large files backwards and forwards instantaneously.
And councils and health authorities will look to move many services online. Health assessments and even many GP consultations may even be able to take place over the internet.