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What Is a Gigabit?

Today, most domestic and small business users have internet connections offering speeds of 10 megabits a second to 100 megabits a second.

But for those who need even more speed, a leased-line connection can offer lightning-fast speeds of 1 gigabit/s, which is 10 to 100 times faster than today's typical broadband connection.

Competition between leased-line providers has dramatically reduced the cost of accessing the internet via leased lines and so gigabit speeds are a realistic option for businesses and other power users.

But why would you want a gigabit Internet connection?

Remember the days of dial-up internet? A decade ago, before the broadband revolution, only large businesses could afford broadband Internet connections and only the very largest could afford leased lines. The rest of us had to make do with modems and dial-up connections whose speed was limited to just 64 kilobits a second.

That seems excruciatingly slow today and indeed the slow speed and the time-based tariffs of dial-up connections imposed real limitations on what people could do on the internet. Downloading a movie - not HD - would take 24 hours or more and run up quite a bill in phone charges.

The advent of broadband access technologies dramatically changed the way people use the Internet.

People no longer have to worry about the time they are connected to the internet or indeed, how much data they consume, as broadband internet tariffs are flat-rates.

The other big change is the huge increase in connection speeds. With a 10 megabit/s connection, an SD movie can be downloaded in less than 10 minutes. Equally importantly, the internet connection can be used simultaneously for different services, such as downloading a large file, managing stock market transactions, use voice over internet protocol, host websites, enabling virtual private networks from home or checking emails and social media services such as Twitter.

Even so, with a conventional broadband connection, there can be situations where 10 or even 100 megabit/s is not sufficient. For example, if one user wants to access a bandwidth-intensive application such as a videoconference and another user, sharing the connection, wants to monitor stock prices or stream the BBC World News at the same time. If there is insufficient bandwidth for both applications, the quality of one or both will suffer.

With a leased-line connection capable of gigabit speeds, these limitations effectively disappear. You can stream HD video content with little or no delays, which means less time waiting for relevant news coverage or important conference streaming to start.

So a 100 megabits of data per second will allow you to download a HD digital movie as large as 14 GB quickly, which would take a long time to download on a consumer-grade broadband connection. But the same file can be downloaded over a leased-line connection in less than 2 minutes. And because a leased-line offers a symmetrical connection - unlike conventional broadband internet services - you get the same lightning-fast speeds uploading content as well.

A leased line connection also allows more users to enjoy a high-speed internet connection simultaneously. That means increased productivity in an office where major transactional data is crucial, as the experience of each user will be similar to that of having a dedicated broadband internet connection just for them.