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What providers are saying about selling multi-gig speeds

Rebecca Palmer smiles for the camera
Researched by
Rebecca PalmerSenior Staff Writer
Headshot of Michal Ash
Reviewed by
Michal AshManaging Editor
Updated 3/29/23

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As more and more internet providers start offering multi-gig or hyper-gig speeds (anything faster than 1 Gbps), the Switchful team got curious about whether these speeds are helpful for residential users.

We’ve heard some people say these expensive tiers don’t make a real-world difference. They’re just a way for the internet providers to make more money without actually providing more value.

We decided to dig in. First, we learned more about what’s on offer throughout the US.

Lots of small internet providers out there are selling speeds up to 10 Gbps, we discovered, but only a handful of the biggest providers are pushing multi-gig speeds for home internet.

Growing demand, or preparing for the future?

AT&T didn’t immediately get back to us with a request for more info on why it was selling multi-gig speeds to home users, but its CFO Pasal Desroches spoke at a big conference at the end of February and said the company plans to reach more than 30 million customers with fiber internet by the end of 2025. (1)

But what is it all for? Our best bet is that AT&T is trying to future-proof its capability.

Frontier Communications also didn’t return emails right away, but its recent campaign to kick off 5 Gbps speeds answered a lot of our questions. A press release touted symmetrical upload and download speeds and 99.9% network reliability. (2)

“Our 5 Gig offer meets the growing demand for multi-gig speeds and delivers the ‘un-cable’ experience by making the fastest upload and download speeds available throughout our fiber network,” said John Harrobin, Frontier’s Executive Vice President of Consumer.

“Growing demand” sounds like more future-proofing from where we sit.

Google Fiber, too, has talked about looking ahead as a reason to build out a multi-gig network (while making some pretty braggadocious claims about why it’s the best fiber provider out there). (3)

Xfinity’s 2 Gbps offering isn’t new, but the company’s leap to a 10G network is. The PR team got back to Switchful right away to clarify some details about exactly what 10G is and pointed us to a press release about the change.

In it, Comcast Cable CEO Dave Watson said “streaming live sports, 4K gaming, hybrid work, and virtual reality have gone mainstream in just a few years, and gig speeds, capacity, reliability, and low latency are key factors making our connectivity experience superior to the competition.”

If you believe the company line (and we generally do), the new 10G system will handle all that with increased capacity, better reliability, and low latency at all the speeds it offers.

The multi-gig future

We think these providers have a point about building out faster speeds for the future. According to The NCTA, a trade group of cable companies, we’ll need 15 GB of data every day to make autonomous cars a reality. (4) A separate report from IoT Analytics forecasts 27 billion connected devices by 2025. (5) That will take a lot of bandwidth, and plenty of speed!

The future of internet speed

We can’t know for sure what the future will bring, but there’s a very good chance it will require multi-gig speeds.

Thought leadership and federal funding

Many experts we’ve heard from talk about a “multigig frenzy,” and say building out hyper-speed fiber networks is a waste of money.

Joe Kane of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) believes rural areas don’t need fiber. He proposes cheaper solutions, like 5G from cell phone companies, traditional fixed wireless, and low-orbit satellite. (6)

Kane was specifically talking about the federal Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (Bead) program, which makes a whopping $42.45 billion available for building and deploying high-speed internet throughout the US and its territories. (7) However, his comments could easily be applied to purely private sector buildouts.

Electronic Frontiers Foundation authors Ernesto Falcon and Katharine Trendacosta are singing the same tune. (8) Even by 2026, they wrote, most households need speeds of just 100 Mbps for download and 20 Mbps for upload.

The “build it and they will come” philosophy

Other experts we talked to look forward eagerly to a multi-gig future. RtBrick is an international organization that helps carriers build out their networks, and VP of Strategy Richard Brandon is a thought leader in the space. He told Switchful there’s a “build it and they will come” philosophy in play right now among internet service providers.

“We’ve always thought we’d have enough capacity until we built it, and then it turned out we found new things to do with it and we wanted some more,” he told us. “That next bandwidth-hungry thing might be the metaverse, or super-immersive 360 degree sports coverage, or simply something we haven’t thought of. Either way, it’s a brave futurologist that says ‘we’re done with all this now – we’ve finally got all we’ll ever need.’”

RtBrick is helping providers improve their service in other ways, too. It gets a little technical, but it has to do with using off-the-shelf chips rather than purpose-built chips and fully integrated routers.

“We are making it faster, or at least we’re making it much more efficient to make it faster,” Brandon explained. “But speed is only half the story. Resilience is also important, perhaps even more so. Most of us would happily accept a drop in throughput rather than a gap in service altogether. The good news is that these new systems can also recover faster than old ones if there’s a fault.”

For the average home user, the changes will happen behind the scenes, he said.

“But if you look under the Internet’s hood, this shift to what are called ‘disaggregated systems’ is the most significant change we’ve seen in decades.”

Speeds you (probably) need in 2023

For most households throughout the US, the Switchful team recommends buying internet plans with speeds of 200-500 Mbps, but you can potentially benefit from speeds up to 1 Gbps if you have a particularly large household. Learn more about the speeds you need and get our proprietary list of myths about multi-gig speeds we’ve seen roaming around the internet.

The people behind our research
We believe the best information comes from first-hand customer experience and methodical research by subject-matter experts. We never source information from "content farms," and we don’t generate content using artificial intelligence (AI). You can trust that our recommendations are fact-checked meticulously and sourced appropriately by authentic, industry-recognized people.
Contributing researcher
Rebecca Palmer smiles for the camera
Researched by
Rebecca PalmerSenior Staff Writer

Rebecca Palmer has been writing about tech and consumer finance since 2010. Her work has been featured in the Deseret News, Idaho Business Review, TopTenReviews.com, and more. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, and lives in Salt Lake City with her exceptionally delightful pup, Nymeria.

Contributing reviewer
Headshot of Michal Ash
Reviewed by
Michal AshManaging Editor

Michal directs the Switchful content strategy and leads the editorial team. With a bachelor’s degree in Communications, she has more than a decade of experience in the world of marketing communications. Her diverse career has included public relations, brand development, digital strategies, and more; her key skillset has always been centered around strategic efforts for consumer-focused initiatives. In her free time, you can find her camping with friends, chasing waterfalls on her kayak, or searching for the best restaurants in Salt Lake City.

Endnotes and sources
  1. AT&T CFO Updates Shareholders at Deutsche Bank Conference,” AT&T. Accessed 2 March 2023.
  2. Frontier Launches the Nation’s Only Network-Wide 5 Gig Fiber Internet Service,” Frontier Communications. Accessed 2 March 2023.
  3. Fast Forward: The future is multigig,” The Connect blog. Accessed 2 March 2023.
  4. The Future is 10G,” NCTS. Accessed 2 March 2023.
  5. State of IoT 2022: Number of connected IoT devices growing 18% to 14.4 billion globally,” IoT Analytics. Accessed 2 March 2023.
  6. No More Fiber to Nowhere,” ITIF.org. Accessed 2 March 2023.
  7. Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program,” National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Accessed 2 March 2023.
  8. The Future Is in Symmetrical, High-Speed Internet Speeds,” Electronic Frontier Foundation. Accessed 2 March 2023.