Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Will We Access the Internet via Gas Pipes?

US-based information technology company, Nethercomm has proposed delivering broadband Internet as well as other data services through underground natural gas pipes even while fuel is flowing through them. This new technology could help to foster the delivery of HDTV technology as rates less expensive than those currently offered. The broadband in gas (BiG) technology could handle data at speed of up to 1Gbit per second. BiG is said to offer a less expensive, higher-capacity broadband capability than that of cable as well as DSL and fiber optics. Also, DSL is not able to support HDTV. BiG would also be able to help independent network-service providers, whose infrastructures were injured by US federal court and administrative decisions. One of the reasons BiG would be so inexpensive is because many home and businesses that would use it already have the necessary infrastructure installed. In the United States, about 70 percent of households and 35 percent of businesses use natural gas according to a senior analyst at West Technology. Although the approach to delivery broadband to homes in the United States is a new and unique one, it does has some industry credibility because Nethercomm's founder and CEO is the former chief technology office for Patriot Scientific and the former president and CEO of Intertech.

Some problems that Nethercomm could run into is the fact that not everyone uses natural gas and they would be limited in service to those American businesses and home which already have the necessary infrastructure in place (since they do not also provide the infrastructure). Utility companies may be hesitant to work with a start up company with new and untested technology. Additionally, it is still not totally clear exactly how well this method of Internet access would function from within a gas pipe.

Nethercomm has plans to license it's technology to service providers and also to launch a pilot program this summer in Arizona and Illinois. It is predicted that 3.9 million American households will utilize BiG technology by 2008 and will have 18.6 million households by 2010 which is a figure based on different business relationships in development as well as the high demand for new broadband services.

I find this article very interesting because it could change the way the Internet is looked at by service providers as well as consumers. This new technology consolidates by taking two different existing technologies and combining them to make a service for people that has the potential to be cheaper for the consumer in addition to being faster than current broadband with perks such as HDTV of which which DSL is not even capable. The reduction in cost for HDTV could help to usher in a new era in television for the average American household: the HD Era.

The fact that 70 percent of American households are served by natural gas is an indication of how big this market could be if the technology works. 70 percent of the household in America is a very large market to work with making the potential payoff a very big one indeed.

Even if BiG does not pan out, I love the fact that American entrepreneurs are constantly trying new ways to push the envelope in technology. Without companies like Nethercomm to lead the way in developing cutting edge technologies, there would be no successes or failures and therefore no forward progress.