Japan is the true gadget geek’s version of the Holy Land and between my love of gadgets and my love of anime there was a time I actually dreamed of immigrating to Japan, finding a nice Japanese woman to marry, and blaming any marital misunderstandings on my being a dumb American. Guys like Zak Braverman are living my dream (he has a cool blog, go check it out), but alas for me it was not to be. Mainly because I’m too lazy to learn to speak Japanese, but that’s not what I wanted to talk about.
What I wanted to talk about is how every now and then I read about something in Japan that gives me that itch to become an expatriate once again. Usually something to do with technology, computing or gadgets. Things like the fact that they have some of the fastest and cheapest broadband in the world. High speed ADSL currently dominates the broadband market in Japan, but many companies are starting to offer Fiber To The Home (FTTH). FTTH has been talked about here in the States for years and there are some areas where limited trial runs have been done, usually in new subdivisions, but the chances of FTTH becoming widespread anytime soon here are considered remote outside of a few big cities and it’ll probably be expensive to start. Meanwhile in Japan they’re already enjoying ADSL speeds that make anything here in America seem sluggish at best and several companies are gearing up to duke it out for the FTTH market ensuring prices remain dirt cheap.
Unlike Softbank’s success in attracting more than 4 million users to its ADSL service, no one has yet captured a significant chunk of the fiber-optic service, called FTTH (fiber to the home), from NTT, which has a dominant market share.
But operators are setting bullish subscription targets and beefing up their marketing offensives.
Tokyo Electric Power Co., which started fiber-optic service in March 2002, said it hopes to attract 1 million users over the next four years. The country’s largest power utility would not supply current subscriber figures but implied the total is substantially less than 100,000.
“Fiber optics will have a significant share over the next few years, and we are working to encourage switch-over from ADSL and dialup users,” said Tetsuhiko Tashiro, head of Tepco’s fiber-optic service.
So how fast is fast and how cheap is cheap? Well, let’s take a look at what I’m using. My broadband is supplied by Wide Open West, a relatively small cable company out of Denver that bought up all the old Americast cable networks formerly owned by SBC/Ameritech. Americast hadn’t done terribly well because all they offered was cable TV as cable modem service would compete with their DSL offerings and cable phone service would compete with their traditional phone service. Now, for $40 a month I have their highest tier of broadband service which gives me speeds of 4Mbps down and 512Kbps up. Similarly Comcast’s offering costs $42.95 a month for 3Mbps down (4Mbps in some areas) and 256Kbps up. Both of these prices are for current cable TV subscribers and if you don’t want cable TV then the prices go up by $10 or so a month.
By comparison in Japan you can currently get Softbank’s Yahoo BB ADSL for ¥2,918 ($26.78) for 45Mbps down and 1Mbps up! Now NTT East Corp is offering FTTH at a maximum of 100Mbps in both directions for a mere ¥4,500 ($41.28)! That’s what I pay for my piddly little 4Mbps service and that’s not the cheapest solution being offered:
Cable music provider Usen Corp. has just launched a cut-rate fiber-optic service for apartment dwellers at ¥2,980 ($27.32) a month. The company said such a discount is possible because, instead of hooking up each apartment with fiber optics, the new service uses the building’s existing copper telephone lines.
The cross-over technology of using fiber optics outside the building and telephone lines inside cuts costs and can still provide a download speed of up to 100 Mbps, though the maximum upstream speed is half that, the company said.
Now the truth is that I probably don’t need the full 4Mbps service I have now as most of the time the extra speed isn’t being used and I would actually benefit more from an increased upstream speed seeing as I spend a fair amount of time moving data back and forth between my websites, but it sure is nice to have when I decide I want to download the latest game demo or just got done restaging my PC and need to download between 40 and 80MB worth of patches. Still, if packages like those were offered here for similar prices I’d probably be making the switch to FTTH as well. Hell, I’d be happy with ADSL speeds like the ones offered in Japan. It’s definitely drool inducing among those of us who are speed addicted.
Discovered via Broadband Reports.com.