By Dave Geary, President, Alcatel-Lucent’s Wireline activities
The concepts of “bigger” and “brighter” are pretty indicative of the future of the broadband industry. A number of interesting things have happened over the last year: not only has the vendor landscape changed pretty dramatically, the economic environment has also made things more challenging for operators around the world.
But the really important and interesting thing is that the innovation in this industry is giving service providers more options than ever before to address their broadband opportunities and challenges. And despite these challenges and changes, I think we can agree that it is an exciting time and an exciting future. It is not often that we have the opportunity to impact in a very positive way the lives of literally billions of people. And make no mistake about it: broadband is changing the lives of many people for the better!
We know well about the socio-economic benefits of broadband (as a key factor in attracting new businesses and jobs, for instance) – but the following stats are pretty enlightening too:
- In the US, two-thirds of people sleep with their mobile phones
- 84% of users in Germany would prefer the Internet (if they had to make a choice) versus their car or partner
- In the US, 8-18 year-olds in a 7-hour period consume 11.5 hours of content – with the TV on, the desktop on, the mobile device on, all at the same time
All these figures really do give a sense of people’s overwhelming need to stay connected, interact and express themselves. We need a connected world. Despite all of the progress that we made, most of the world remains unconnected though…
- In North America, 80% of users have high-speed Internet connections; yet – as impressive as that number is – that still leaves 75 million people unserved
- In APAC, we’ve connected more than a billion people; that’s a staggering number – but only 25% of the population, leaving three billion underserved or unserved
- In total, 4.5 billion people around the world still don’t have broadband service
But the good news is that progress is being made. Around the world, broadband plans have been defined, with everyone acting on them. Here are some good examples:
- Telkom South Africa is connecting 4 million subscribers with a combination of fiber and copper (VDSL) based technologies
- In LATAM, Telmex and Oi are doing the same – leveraging new fiber infrastructure as well as their existing copper assets
- In China, China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom are rolling out fiber networks in an unprecedented level
But as we know, it is not enough to simply be connected. You also need to make sure that both new and existing subscribers get the bandwidth that they expect, to support the applications and services they need. This is where the bandwidth targets of the broadband plans come into play. Again, there are huge regional differences – from very high bandwidth levels in The Netherlands for instance, to very low ones such as in Nepal.
Operators are leveraging new technologies to deliver higher bitrates: Belgacom is planning to deliver 50Mbps to all of their subscribers using VDSL2 Vectoring; KPN uses P2P fiber to deliver 500Mbps and plans to leverage Vectoring to improve the performance for their DSL subscribers; Verizon and AT&T have undertaken massive programs too – both in their fixed access networks (FTTH, FTTN) as well as LTE – to improve broadband connectivity; and around the world, “Gigabit cities” are popping up – with governments and utilities leveraging existing passive infrastructure to deploy FTTH and deliver speeds up to 1Gbps.
So, what can we as an industry learn from these examples? What can we do to make a difference? Connecting the world and those 4.5 billion underserved or unserved may seem like trying to boil the ocean. But the above examples show us that there are very pragmatic approaches to this. We need to leverage everything at our disposal to deliver more broadband, sooner. It is clear it is not important how people are connected, as long as we connect them. The end user really doesn’t care about whether the connection is fiber, copper, coaxial cable, or wireless – as long as they get access to the services and applications that they want.
We believe that almost all technologies can deliver this kind of connectivity – and the bandwidth you need to make a difference. Obviously, we need to roll out new infrastructures but it is a no-brainer to leverage existing assets. Thanks to innovation, we can get more out of today’s networks than we ever thought possible. It can be as simple as boosting bandwidths on copper networks with Bonding and Vectoring. But it is also about using those infrastructures to allow better wireless coverage – using the copper and fiber networks for small cells backhaul for instance.
In summary, we as an industry can look forward to an exciting future. And while there is a lot of debate on what technology is best, I think we should not lose sight of the number-1 opportunity, our top priority: getting the world connected.
For more information on how Alcatel-Lucent is connecting the world, please visit our “Get to Fast Faster” campaign pages – part of the company’s High Leverage Network™ proposition.
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