Many of us will remember our childhood visions of an amazing technology future. Popular science TV shows and magazines promised a new world would await us when we were adults. Unfortunately, many of these predictions were often too good to be true, and we’re not – yet – holidaying on the moon, riding flying cars to work, or taking a single pill to cure all illness.

But there are some areas in which science fiction is becoming a reality, thanks to investment and innovation. In particular, the continuous acceleration of broadband speeds – now at 1 Gigabit per second for millions of Liberty Global customers across Europe – is enabling many of those fantastical predictions to come true, improving lives and driving economic growth at the same time.

The explosion of digital communications applications online has already had a marked impact on our lives, mostly by dramatically reducing transaction costs, overcoming what economists call “frictions”.

Improved communication reduces the frictions that exist between two or more parties by ensuring that the same information is accessible to all participants. Many big online success-stories are based on this phenomenon: Airbnb, Uber, and Tripadvisor, to name but a few. Gigabit broadband takes the reduction of transaction costs and frictions to entirely new levels, creating a wave of new innovations and applications.

If we look at communication technologies throughout the ages, we can see that each development has unlocked transformational changes in the way people communicate by reducing frictions and lowering transaction costs.

A new report by the economic research group Oxera, commissioned by Liberty Global, predicts that Gigabit connections will continue this historical trend and have a transformative effect on society.  It identifies four key areas where the impact will be the greatest: revolutionizing healthcare, changing the way we work, enriching social and digital interactions and helping fight climate change.

In healthcare, for example, patients with Gigabit broadband will be able to have remote access to a healthcare specialist who could assess, diagnose and treat them in the comfort of their own homes, saving on the time and cost of travelling to hospital as well as on CO2 emissions. Stroke patients will be able to be monitored 24 hours a day at home, potentially saving up to €35k per patient, per year. And as we live longer and more of us are likely to be living with chronic conditions, remote healthcare will enable the elderly to live at home independently for longer.

Gigabit connections will also transform the way we work, enabling us to have remote meetings with colleagues on the other side of the world, which provide the physical and emotional sensation of literally being in the same room – unlike the one-dimensional video conferencing calls of today. Applications such as holographic conferencing and augmented reality presence – combined with increased downstream and upstream bandwidth – will enable workers in professions that involve visualizing 3d models or sharing immersive content to collaborate and co-create with professionals in other countries and even continents.

And when it comes to social and digital interactions, Gigabit broadband will enable easier and more realistic interactions between friends and family – alleviating loneliness and isolation. Think of the grandmother who can’t attend her grandson’s birthday party because she lives too far away. Live holographic conferencing could enable her to take part in the candle-blowing ceremony as if she was really there. Similarly, sports fans will be able to get “ringside seats” at their favourite events without having to travel, and school children will be able to be “transported” to the moon to learn about the solar system. All of these changes will mean less travelling, less commuting, and fewer CO2 emissions.

These examples are just some of the benefits that the next generation of broadband will enable. The great news is that these predictions of the future won’t leave us disappointed, as those exciting forecasts from our youth did, because the technology that can deliver these benefits is already here – and available to millions of consumers throughout Europe.

And as we push innovation, increasing broadband speeds to 10 Gigabits per second or more on our existing networks, we will unleash a new wave of science-fiction services and applications our children are dreaming about today.

Read the full report here.

This blog was also published on Politico Europe.