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Do We Really Need “Superfast” Broadband?

21 Oct
broadband internet speed uk

Do we really need 1Mbps, 10Mbps, 100Mbps or even 1000Mbps (1Gbps) of Internet download and upload speed to enjoy the online world? It’s an interesting question and one with many different answers, usually depending upon both your perspective and personal expectations. But how much Internet speed is really enough?

Some of us still recall the dreaded days of 30-50Kbps (0.03-0.05Mbps) narrowband dialup, where a trek into the online world usually started with series of whistles and crunches from a small box (modem) next to your computer and a minute or so later you’d be connected. Back then it wasn’t uncommon for websites to take a minute or two to load, assuming they didn’t fail first, and even small file downloads could take hours, with some needing days or occasionally weeks to complete. A dire existence by modern standards, perhaps, but at the time this was considered normal.

Back in the days of dialup the idea of streaming even standard definition quality video online was something that only those able to spend £20,000 on a 2Mbps Leased Line could envisage and that would quickly clog up the network for hundreds of workers, yet today almost everybody has this ability. How times have changed.

Mercifully the modern Internet, after initially being revolutionised by the first-generation of affordable ADSL and cable (DOCSIS) based broadband connections at the start of this century, is much improved. Today most websites feel practically instant to load, while the wealth and quality of online content is vastly improved.

In fact you can still do almost everything you want online with a stable connection of 2 Megabits per second, provided you don’t mind waiting or doing it in a lower quality, so why even bother going faster? Obviously anybody hoping to stream a good HD video/TV show or wanting to get other things, such as big file transfers, done in a shorter period of time will laugh at that. Plus what’s HD today will be 4K tomorrow and then 8K after that.

At the same time many of us have perhaps become conditioned by our perceptions and experiences of current Internet technology to expect and accept delays and waiting times as normal.

Speed vs Need

Back when dialup was king a big website that loaded in 20-30 seconds was considered “fast” because that was the norm and then broadband came along to make it virtually instant, which is now the new norm. Perceptions change as technology evolves. Today the UK Government has defined “superfast broadband” as being connections able to deliver Internet download speeds of “greater than 24 Megabits per second“, which rises to 30Mbps for Europe’s universal 2020 Digital Agenda target.

Meanwhile a recent report from Cable Europe predicted consumer demand for broadband ISP download speeds will reach 165Mbps (plus uploads of 20Mbps) by the same date as the EU’s target and some others suggest that we should be setting our sights even higher and aiming to achieve 1000Mbps+. Naturally all of this takes money and usually the faster you go the more it costs to build and deliver (a national 1Gbps+ fibre optic network might need £20bn-£30bn to deploy), which is one of the main reasons why progress has been so slow.

Next to all this there’s no shortage of reports and ISPs telling us that most people will only “need” a much slower speed, such as this BSG study which suggested that a “median household” might only require bandwidth of 19Mbps (Megabits per second) by 2023. Never the less when we survey readers to find out what they want, most people always end up picking the fastest options. Naturally if you could buy a Supercar today then many probably would, so long as they could afford it.

Admittedly 24-30Mbps+ of speed is enough to run several HD video streams at the same time, while a 20-50GB (GigaByte) video game download over Steam or Xbox Live etc. could be done within just a few hours. In fact this is even enough to view a stable 4K video stream over Netflix, so long as nobody else is trying to gobble your bandwidth at the same time. Modern connections also have pretty good latency, which should be fine for playing games.

Make Everything Instant

So why go faster? Firstly it takes time, years in fact, to build out a new infrastructure and what is fast today will just as assuredly be deemed slow tomorrow. In other words, if you’re expecting to need a lot more speed in the future then it’s perhaps best to get started now than wait until tomorrow has arrived.

People might not all “need” that speed yet but the infrastructure should be there to support whatever they want, be it 20Mbps or 2000Mbps, and right now the only way to get that is by building a true fibre optic network (FTTH/P). Granted most of us will be happy with the hybrid-fibre solutions that are currently being rolled out but, as above, we need to be ready before tomorrow arrives and some of today’s hybrid solutions have big limits.. especially at distance (FTTC).

Meanwhile we’re all still conditioned to expect a delay. Every time you download a big multi-GigaByte file or attempt to upload a complex new drawing to a business contact, there’s a delay. Sometimes it’s a few seconds, others it can be minutes and for some it’ll be hours. A huge transfer will almost always attract some delay (especially if you’re the one uploading because upstream traffic is usually much slower). Time is what makes speed matter.

However one of these days we’d like it to be instant or at least as close to that as possible. For example, in an ideal world a 20GB game download wouldn’t take hours or even minutes, it would instead be done only moments after your click. No more long waits. So perhaps when next a telecoms company says “nobody needs more than xx Megabits per second” we should respond by saying, “Kindly be quiet! I want everything to be instant, now make it so“.

The problem is we’d also expect this to be affordable and thus it won’t happen, at least not for most of us and probably not for many more years, and even if it did then by the time you could achieve that the 20GB would have become 200GB or 2000GB and you’d be back to square one. But wouldn’t it be nice if, just for once, we built a national infrastructure that was way ahead of expectations and delivered Gigabits of speed no matter how far you lived from your local node / street cabinet.

Some providers are doing this already (e.g. Hyperoptic, CityFibre), albeit to a much smaller scale and focused on more viable urban areas, yet making the investment case for a 100% national deployment is much harder (you have to cater for sparse communities too) and we can’t blame some for choosing the halfway house of hybrid-fibre. It’s quick to roll-out, comparatively cheap and should help to plug the performance gap for most people. But it’s also likely to need significantly more investment in the future.

Now, does anybody have a few billion pounds going spare so we can do the job properly and keep it affordable?



The Internet’s Nightmare Scenario Could Be Playing Out on Your Smartphone

5 Aug
 There is no shortage of scaremongers who believe that the future of the Internet — and by some extension, humanity — relies on keeping the Internet an even, open and neutral platform for the flow of information.It can be tough to tell whether the concern is legitimate. After all, the grim picture of an Internet that more closely resembles cable TV is a far-off notion compared to the open platform enjoyed today.

Or maybe not. A look at the wireless industry now makes the doomsayers look more like soothsayers.

Mobile carriers have begun to give the world a picture of what a net neutrality-free Internet could look like. Wireless companies have slowly but surely begun to roll out plans that favor certain content providers or entirely limit access to particular sites and apps.

Regulation of this activity is tricky. It is an area that FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has said is under supervision but “should not be prohibited out of hand.” Wheeler has not been shy about going after companies for limiting consumers’ access, but has little legal basis for going after the deals made between companies. (The FCC declined to comment for this story.)

Here’s a rundown of what T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint have been up to:

  • T-Mobile and music: The “un-carrier” has looked for ways to attract younger consumers that tend to do data-intensive smartphone activities. Streaming music from the likes of Spotify tends to take a toll, so T-Mobile decided to stop counting it against data plans.

  • AT&T and sponsored data: Sponsored data is the term that usually refers to companies paying providers to give consumers preferential access to certain websites and content, often by not counting the activity against consumer data plans.This type of plan has been in the works for some time, but finally launched in early 2014. Re/code reported that it has some smaller customers, but no big names as of yet.

  • Sprint and its Facebook/Twitter plan: This might be the most disconcerting plan of them all. With this deal, customers don’t have access to the Internet; they have access to channels. Customers can choose to have access to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram (or all four for an additional charge).Sprint bills the deal as a way for customers to have more choice while also serving to provide access for lower income customers.

  • As these deals pile up, a less-than-rosy picture of the future of mobile Internet begins to emerge. Fred Wilson, a prominent venture capitalist, recently took to his blog to discuss how these plans can seem advantageous. He focused on “zero rating,” in which companies pay providers so that their content does not count against data plans.

    “The pernicious thing about zero rating is that it is marketed as a consumer-friendly offering by the mobile carrier — ‘we are not charging you for data when you are on Spotify,'” he wrote in a post.

    “But what all of this zero rating activity is setting up is a mobile internet that looks a lot more like cable TV than our wide open Internet,” he wrote. “Soon, a startup will have to negotiate a zero rating plan before launching because mobile app customers will be trained to only use apps that are zero rated on their network.”


    It’s not that wireless Internet might end up becoming tiered for everyone, but freedom could become an expensive feature of smartphone plans.

    It’s not that wireless Internet might end up becoming tiered for everyone, but freedom could become an expensive feature of smartphone plans.

    Mobile broadband is regarded by the FCC differently from “fixed” broadband, which is Internet service used by devices at certain endpoints, usually computers. The most important distinction comes from the 2010 Open Internet Order, which detailed that mobile had to abide by transparency requirements but not other rules that helped ensure net neutrality for fixed broadband.

    The order meant that wireless companies like AT&T, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile and Sprint could strike deals with companies that would prioritize certain content.

    This might not have seemed as big of a deal in 2010, as mobile data usage remained a fraction of the larger Internet. That changed as smartphones matured, networks grew faster and more companies tailored content for the mobile experience.


    Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 12.21.54 PM


    To capitalize on this growth, mobile broadband providers have rolled out new data plans that put caps on usage and charge for overages. Many plans once offered limited voice minutes and text messages with unlimited data. That has now flipped, with data capped and voice and text an unlimited afterthought.

    Data caps are not unique to wireless companies, and are on their way to a broader landline market. Comcast has been testing such plans and its chief executive has already said “usage-based billing” is on its way.

    The combination of data caps and sponsored content deals suddenly make the dystopian Internet future more believable. With Internet consumption pushing more into mobile, the lack of rules ensuring equal access is providing some idea of what might happen if the FCC is unable to enforce net neutrality rules.

    The result, unfortunately enough, looks a lot like a nightmare dreamt up by the most paranoid net neutrality advocates.

    Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.


    Cisco: The U.S. officially enters the gigabyte era of mobile data consumption

    6 Feb
    mobile data traffic world

    SUMMARY:Average mobile data use in North America nearly doubled in 2013 to 1.38 GBs a month leading the world. The U.S. isn’t the biggest data hog — that would be Japan — but LTE is driving consumption.

    Mobile users the world over came close to doubling their mobile data consumption between 2012 and 2013 as average monthly usage peaked well over 1 GB in the U.S, and several other countries, according to Cisco Systems’ new Visual Networking Index report on global mobile data trends.

    North America led the pack with the average mobile subscriber consuming 1.38 GBs a month, up from 752 MBs in 2012 and a full gigabyte more than the average global usage of 356 MBs. When looking at individual countries, Japanese users led the world with 1.87 GBs, followed by the U.S. at 1.41 GBs and South Korea with 1.25 GBs.

    Cisco VNI 2014 data use

    Those three countries happen to be the first to launch LTE networks on a large scale, and according to Cisco director of service provider marketing Thomas Barnett, 4G adoption has become the strongest indicator of skyrocketing mobile broadband use worldwide, a conclusion other studies have also reached. In Western Europe, where LTE only got off the ground recently, average mobile data usage is half that in North America, coming in at 717 MBs per month.

    Cisco VNI 2014 connection type

    As you might expect, smartphones are a big driver of that increased data appetite, but tablets are contributing as well. Cisco, however, is seeing a surprising surge in PC connections to mobile networks. Barnett attributes that to the fact that laptops are starting to resemble tablets, coming with touchscreen capabilities and retractable keyboards. As people start to use their laptops like tablets, they’re increasing treating them as mobile — not merely portable — devices.

    Cisco VNI 2014 devices

    Last year the world saw 1.5 exabytes — an exabyte being 1 billion gigabytes — of data traverse its mobile networks each month. Cisco expects that number to grow to 15.9 exabytes in 2018.

    Cisco VNI 2014 Traffic


    Smart Home: Which company will lead the 2014 Trends?

    11 Dec


    International research firm Parks Associates,  will provide an update on the connected home market and analyze the key trends and upcoming announcements ahead of 2014 International CES . Parks Associates estimates that in 2017, more than 11 million U.S. broadband households will have some type of smart home controller, up from two million in 2013..So we are seeing in the marketplace, including the Control 4, LUTRON ,CRESTRON, AMX, and other power company like Wulian etc, that will be a hot war in home automation area.

    So which company will win and lead the 2014 trend? As we know, AMX is a famous brand and has a long history in the home automation area, but its technology is wire, and wireless is the trend, so it must be out. LUTRON and CRESTRON  , Control 4 , yes, you can say, now in the market , maybe many people know them and think their products are good, in fact, for these three companies, not all the products are wireless, part of them are wire. It means, you can not DIY by yourself completely , you must pay the installing fees. So can you find one company which can supply the whole set of home automation products and DIY installing completely? Yes, look for in China, there is one company wulian , you will find they can meet any your inquire for home automation products , what’s more, you can get the high cost performance!

    Now in the market , Apple also said they goes into the home automation area, and many companies said they have the best wireless  technology , like WiFI, Bluetooth ,ZigBee, Z wave etc. WiFi has advantage in big date transportation like video, but at the same time, it is also its disadvantage, except the video, most of the home automation products need low power dissipation and low energy consumption. Bluetooth, PTP technology, that will not have a wide range of application. ZigBee, now, many investors think that is the best choice to home automation area, and there is a whole complete industry chain to keep the creativity, For Z wave, consider it just can supply more than 200 devices in theory, we just can say it has a limited range in home automation or building automation .

    ITU releases latest tech figures & global rankings

    31 Oct

    • 250 million additional people came online in 2012
    • Republic of Korea tops ICT ranking for 3rd year in a row
    • By end 2013 40% of the world will be online – but 1.1 billion households – or 4.4 billion people – remain unconnected
    • Mobile broadband is now more affordable than fixed broadband
    • Almost the whole world is now within reach of mobile cellular service
    • 30% of the world’s young population are ‘digital natives’
    • Broadband is getting faster; 2Mbps now most popular basic package
    • Telco operator CAPEX peaked in 2008; despite economic upturn investment levels have not returned

    Mobile broadband over smartphones and tablets has become the fastest growing segment of the global ICT market, according to ITU’s flagship annual report Measuring the Information Society 2013.

    New figures released today show buoyant global demand for information and communication technology (ICT) products and services, steadily declining prices for both cellular and broadband services, and unprecedented growth in 3G uptake.

    By end 2013 there will be 6.8 billion total mobile-cellular subscriptions – almost as many as there are people on the planet.

    An estimated 2.7 billion people will also be connected to the Internet – though speeds and prices vary widely, both across and within regions.

    Mobile broadband connections over 3G and 3G+ networks are growing at an average annual rate of 40 per cent, equating to 2.1 billion mobile-broadband subscriptions and a global penetration rate of almost 30 per cent. Almost 50 per cent of all people worldwide are now covered by a 3G network.

    ICT Development Index country rankings

    New data from the 2013 edition of Measuring the Information Society reveal that the Republic of Korea leads the world in terms of overall ICT development for the third consecutive year, followed closely by Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, Finland and Norway.

    The Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Luxembourg and Hong Kong (China) also rank in the top 10, with the UK nudging into the top 10 group from 11th position last year.

    ITU’s ICT Development Index (IDI)* ranks 157 countries according to their level of ICT access, use and skills, and compares 2011 and 2012 scores. It is widely recognized by government, UN agencies and industry as the most accurate and impartial measure of overall national ICT development.

    Top performers – and connectivity challenges

    All countries in the IDI top 30 are high-income countries, underlining the strong link between income and ICT progress.

    There are large differences between developed and developing countries, with IDI values on average twice as high in the developed world compared with developing countries.

    The report identifies a group of ‘most dynamic countries’, which have recorded above-average improvements in their IDI rank or value over the past 12 months. These include (in order of most improved): United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Barbados, Seychelles, Belarus, Costa Rica, Mongolia, Zambia, Australia, Bangladesh, Oman and Zimbabwe.

    The report also identifies the countries with the lowest IDI levels – so-called Least Connected Countries (LCCs). Home to 2.4 billion people – one third of the world’s total population – the Least Connected Countries are also the countries that could potentially derive great benefits from better access to and use of ICTs in areas such as health, education and employment.

    “This year’s IDI figures show much reason for optimism, with governments clearly prioritizing ICTs as a major lever of socio-economic growth, resulting in better access and lower prices,” said ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré. “Our most pressing challenge is to identify ways to enable those countries which are still struggling to connect their populations to deploy the networks and services that will help lift them out of poverty.”

    Broadband pricing & affordability

    Analysis of trends in broadband pricing in more than 160 countries shows that in the four years between 2008-2012 fixed-broadband prices fell by 82 per cent overall, from 115.1 per cent of average monthly income per capita (GNI p.c.) in 2008 to 22.1 per cent in 2012.

    The biggest drop occurred in developing countries, where fixed-broadband prices fell by 30 per cent year on year between 2008 and 2011.

    The average price per unit of speed (Mbps) also decreased significantly between 2008 and 2012, with a global median price of USD 19.50 per Mbps in 2012, almost a quarter of the price that was being charged in 2008.

    The report also presents for the first time the results of a comprehensive price data collection exercise that was carried out for four different types of mobile-broadband service. Results show that in developing countries mobile broadband is now more affordable than fixed broadband, but still much less affordable than in developed countries.

    Austria has the world’s most affordable mobile broadband, while Sao Tomé and Principe, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have the least affordable, with service cost equal to or higher than average monthly gross national income (GNI) per capita. Other countries that rank well for mobile broadband affordability include Qatar, the United Kingdom, Germany, Kuwait and France.

    The global broadband affordability target set in 2011 by the ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission for Digital Development aims to bring the cost of entry-level broadband service to less than 5% of average monthly income.

    Digital natives

    A new model developed by ITU for this year’s report estimates the size of the digital native population worldwide, showing that in 2012 there were around 363 million digital natives out of a world population of around 7 billion. This equates to 5.2 per cent of the total global population, and 30 per cent of the global youth population. The model defines digital natives as networked youth aged 15-24 years with five or more years of online experience.

    Out of a total of 145 million young Internet users in the developed countries, 86.3 per cent are estimated to be digital natives, compared with less than half of the 503 million young Internet users in the developing world. Within the next five years, the digital native population in the developing countries is forecast to more than double.

    The report shows that, globally speaking, young people are almost twice as networked as the global population as a whole, with the age gap more pronounced in the developing world.

    “This first-ever global measurement of the number of digital natives is very timely, coming just after the presentation to the UN General Assembly in New York of the Youth Declaration developed at ITU’s BYND2015 Global Youth Summit, by Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla. Young people are the most enthusiastic adopters and users of ICTs. They are the ones who will shape the direction of our industry in the coming decades, and their voice needs to be heard,” said Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, which produces the MIS report.

    Digital divide

    At the beginning of 2013 almost 80 per cent of households globally had a TV, compared with 41 per cent of households with a computer and 37 per cent with Internet access.

    The report shows that the number of households with Internet access is increasing in all regions, but large differences persist, with penetration rates at the end of this year set to reach almost 80 per cent in the developed world, compared with 28 per cent in the developing world.

    An estimated 1.1 billion households worldwide are not yet connected to the Internet, 90 per cent of which are in the developing world.

    The trend is strongly positive, however, with the proportion of households with Internet access in developing countries increasing from 12 per cent in 2008 to 28 per cent in 2013 – a remarkable 18 per cent compound annual growth rate (CAGR).

    Internet users as a percentage of the population has been growing on average at double-digit rates over the past ten years. The percentage of the population online in the developed world will reach almost 77 per cent by end 2013, compared with 31 per cent in the developing world.

    Telecoms investment

    ITU research shows that telecommunication operators’ capital expenditure (CAPEX) peaked in 2008 with global investment totalling USD 290 billion, followed by two consecutive years of decline. Despite the upturn in 2011, 2008 investment levels have not yet been restored.

    Sluggish investment levels after 2008 are consistent with an overall economic environment of restricted access to capital markets, which may limit the capacity of operators to raise funds for new investments. With the expansion of global operators into new markets, many operators are active in both developing and developed countries, with the adverse financial environment in the developed world likely impairing investments in the developing world.

    See a selection of charts and tables highlighting key findings here.

    Measuring the Information Society 2013: Charts and Tables

    Chart 1: IDI rankings end 2012
    ICT Development Index, Selected economies, 2012
    Source: ITU
    Table 1: Most dynamic countries – changes between IDI 2012 and 2011
    Source: ITU. Note: * Australia, Bangladesh, Oman and Zimbabwe all went up four places
    in the IDI rankings between 2011 and 2012.
    Figure 1: Least connected countries (LCCs), end 2012
    Source: ITU
    Chart 2: Fixed-broadband prices, as a percentage of GNI per capita
    Source: ITU. GNI p.c. is based on World Bank data. Note: Simple averages. Based on 144 economies
    for which 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 fixed-broadband prices were available.
    Chart 3: Digital natives as a percentage of total population,
    by region and level of development, end 2012
    Source: ITU
    Chart 4: Digital natives as a percentage of youth (15-24),
    by region and level of development, end 2012
    Source: ITU
    Chart 5: Percentage of households with Internet access by level of development, 2003-2013*
    Source: ITU. Note: * Estimate.
    Chart 6: Annual Investment (CAPEX) of telecommunication operators, world and by level of development, 2007-2011, total in USD
    Source: ITU. Note: ‘World’ includes 67 countries accounting for 87 per cent of world GDP. ‘Developed’ includes 31 developed countries accounting for 96 per cent of total GDP in the developed world. ‘Developing’ includes 36 developing countries accounting for 72 per cent of total GDP in the developing world.

    *Note to editors:

    The IDI combines 11 indicators into a single measure that can be used as a benchmarking tool globally, regionally, and at national level, as well as helping track progress in ICT development over time. It measures ICT access, use and skills, and includes such indicators as mobile cellular subscriptions, households with a computer, Internet users, fixed and mobile broadband Internet subscriptions, and basic literacy rates.

    ITU statistics are widely recognized as the world’s most reliable and impartial global data on the state of the global ICT industry. They are used extensively by leading intergovernmental agencies, financial institutions and private sector analysts worldwide.

    ITU statistics are available at

    An Executive Summary of the MIS 2013 report can be found at:

    Journalists wishing to receive a free copy of the full report in PDF format should contact Sarah Parkes at the ITU Press Office

    Download the MIS 2013 infographics at:

    Download the MIS 2013 PowerPoint presentation at:

    Download images and photos of the launch at:

    Follow the discussion on Twitter at: #ITUdata



    LTE not a fixed broadband replacement: analyst

    28 Aug

    Last month, 
    AT&T rather quietly launched AT&T Wireless Home Phone and Internet – an LTE-based landline and broadband replacement service in the USA.

    The service is very similar to Verizon’s HomeFusion, and pricing for data is more or less the same: 20GB per month costs USD90 (R915); 30GB costs USD120 (R1221); and overage charges are USD10 (R102) per gigabyte.

    AT&T is initially marketing the service as a direct competitor to the Verizon service in Verizon’s wireline operating area, and not in its own area.

    Unlike HomeFusion, the AT&T service uses LTE to backhaul “fixed” voice, which costs an additional USD20 (R204) per month.

    Both AT&T and Verizon have indicated that they view LTE as the way forward for static broadband in areas not served by their FTTN and FTTH networks, which represents about 25–30% of properties in their operating areas.

    The case for LTE as a fixed-line replacement is weakening

    The obvious problem with the LTE-fixed replacement approach is the use case.

    The highest data package available from both operators is 30GB per month, which is already below the mean average level of fixed broadband usage in the USA.

    Furthermore, AT&T and Verizon estimate that their services will typically deliver access speeds of between 5Mbps and 12Mbps.

    As a result, their appeal will be restricted in rural parts of the USA to lighter users with poor ADSL services and no access to cable broadband.

    Nevertheless, additional spectrum and/or infrastructure could help to ease these limitations.

    Evidence of a very strong surge in data consumption is emerging in several markets. From data published last year in the UK, we calculate that average usage on FTTC/FTTH exceeded 110GB per month in mid-2012.

    These subscribers accounted for only 6% – presumably mainly heavy users – of the fixed broadband subscriber-base, so the average could decline slightly as the user base broadens.

    However, anecdotal evidence suggests that the figure is holding steady.

    Current-generation ADSL usage is also surging, according to a growing number of reports.

    For example, last year, TalkTalk Internet usage was almost certainly well below the UK average of 23GB per month. In May 2013 – six months after the launch of TalkTalk TV – the operator reported peak bandwidth at 706Gbps, which equates to 39GB per month per subscriber, assuming 6.5% busy-hour periods.

    Even accounting for the 73,000 FTTC customers, and assuming that they consume 100GB per month, this growth in ADSL usage will be well ahead of long-term historical Internet traffic growth rates.

    TalkTalk is currently planning a 50–100-times expansion in the capacity of its aggregation networks during the next 5–10 years.

    The primary growth driver for fixed broadband usage appears to be content – particularly boxes that drive online content to TV sets – rather than networks.

    The move to on-demand viewing is only just starting in most of Europe, but some commentators in the USA are already predicting the death of linear broadcast TV.

    More end users are giving up their linear cable TV service, and Cablevision CEO James Dolan this month predicted a day when cablecos stop offering an RF service altogether.

    Cellular technologies are unlikely to cope with a large number of users with these sorts of demands, and designing a rural wireless network to behave like a fibre network can be a very expensive undertaking, as NBN Co’s 4G fixed wireless roll-out in Australia has demonstrated: it has cost AUD1.4 billion (R13.03 billion) or USD1.28 billion to pass 500,000 premises.

    A recent report by Analysys Mason, LTE as a next-generation access platform in rural markets: cost–benefit analysis, argues that LTE in developed economies can play only a very limited role in the supply of fixed broadband – confined to particularly hard-to-reach areas and even then with strict data rationing.

    Broadband data usage

    Broadband data usage

    The case for investment in fixed broadband in emerging economies is better now than it has ever been

    Wireless networks, though, play a larger role in the broadband plans of operators in emerging economies.

    The case for wireless broadband as a primary means to connect in these countries may be just as weak as it is in developed economies, principally for the following four reasons.

    • Fixed broadband users in middle-income economies that already have good NGA availability (like some Central and Eastern European countries) consume on average vastly more Internet data than their counterparts in higher-income economies. (For further details, see Fixed Internet traffic worldwide: forecasts and analysis 2013–2018);
    • Demand is propelled by changes in TV content distribution. TV habits are more universal and far less constrained by wealth and urban/rural divides than Internet usage, so demand from rural or poorer users will not be lower;
    • If it is connected TVs (or rather devices for connecting TVs) and over-the-top (OTT) content that encourage usage and not NGA, then the drivers of usage are not in themselves priced in ways that pose a great barrier to adoption in price-sensitive markets (for example, Google’s Chromecast fob is just USD35). A demand-primed user base will not long be satisfied with first-generation ADSL (because of its speed and stability) or LTE (because of its limited capacity and, in the long term, because of its speed);
    • The capex differential between 4G and fibre roll-out (whether FTTN or FTTH) is lower in emerging markets than in developed economies.

    Emerging economies present real and rapidly improving opportunities for investment in fixed broadband infrastructure – whether upgrades of copper and coax or deployments of pure fibre. The argument is no longer the self-fulfilling one where networks encourage usage, but a more compelling one where usage grows anyway. Operators have an excellent opportunity to monetise these trends, and become significant stakeholders in the video value chain:

    • initially by harnessing and stimulating trends in usage, by increasing aggregation-level capacity (including CDNs), selling OTT/catch-up boxes and upselling subscribers to higher or unlimited data caps
    • subsequently, by consolidating the subscriber base with faster – and, just as importantly, more-stable – NGA connections for multiple-screen, on-demand consumption, as quickly as construction permits.


    LTE and Cellular Routers Will Stimulate Mobile Broadband Device Rebound

    20 Aug

    Despite an 8 percent year on year decline in 2012, annual sales of mobile cellular broadband modems and embedded cellular PCs will rebound and grow to 250 million units by 2018, with LTE increasing by 187 million units between from 2012 and 2018.

    According to Strategy Analytics, the mobile broadband device recovery will begin in 2013, driven by the widespread emergence of LTE, cellular routers for USB modem replacements (for connecting multiple CE devices) and strong emerging market demand.

    “The mobile broadband modem market struggled in 2012, with a decline in vendor shipments overall, as market leaders Huawei and ZTE were unable to maintain the continued growth of previous years as overall spending on modems decreased during the recession as users became more cautious over spending on data plans for modems. Discretionary spending tended to favor smartphones and bolt-on plans for tethering in a number of cases, or spending was withheld altogether,” commented Andrew Brown, Executive Director of Enterprise Research at Strategy Analytics and author of the report.

    “Nevertheless, the increasing dependence on persistent and ubiquitous connectivity, coupled with the widespread emergence of high-speed LTE networks, the multi-purpose nature of cellular hotspot routers that can connect up to 8 consumer electronics devices via Wi-Fi and the opportunities in developed and emerging market means there is plenty of life left in the mobile broadband devices market,” Brown added.

    Click on images to enlarge

    Mobile Broadband Modem Annual Sales



    Telco’s Advantage with IPTV

    16 Jul
    Singtel recently announced their ambition to revolutionise the TV experience  and Ericsson backs them up with their commitment to becoming a multi-media company. Australia, has a saturated smartphone market, this and lower mobile call charges is resulting in erosion in Telecommunications company’s profit margin, it is urgent for Australian Telcos to expand their product mix. Extending into becoming a content provider and delivering PayTV or IPTV is a logical step, several Australian Telcos are already offering a TV service. The question remains, however, how can they capitalise on this offering to boost their income sheets while battling against the global rise of content provider giants, companies such as Apple, Google and Amazon.

    In the Australian market, Telstra is clearly in the best position to maximize and grow their PayTV business. They have a dominant position, already selling both Foxtel Pay TV and the Telstra T-Box IPTV, while owning a 50% stake in Foxtel with News Corp. Before the introduction of internet streaming TVs, Foxtel was briefly Australia’s only PayTV provider (via Telstra) having purchased Austar in 2011. As the NBN is rolled out across the country and Telstra begins to lose their huge network advantage, Foxtel may be their savior, providing them with a differentiator, still, to other Telcos.  Other Telcos have cottoned on to this and are now disrupting the Telstra/Foxtel monopoly. FetchTV has now partnered with iinet and Optus (as well as other smaller Telcos) to providing IPTV to customers without a Telstra connection.  Packages start from $10 per month ($5 cheaper than Telstra’s T-Box monthly plans).

    The main threat to Telcos in this space is content provider giants. Amazon, Apple and Google all offer IPTV, either via a set top box or via a Smart TV. These brands hold a much high promoter score than Australia’s Telcos, and can provide the seamless integration between multiple devices customers have come to expect. Essentially however, while set top boxes, Smart TVs and PayTV are all slightly different, the user receives a product which is very similar: more of the media content they want, when and how they want it.

    The question then remains as to who can provide the best service at the lowest price.  Business Spectator’s Harrison Polites argues that Telcos need to focus on their core business: providing access to a high quality, fast and available network.  PayTV providers as well as IPTV ( Smart TVs and set top boxes) all require access to a network.  The cost of this connection is passed on to the consumer.  This could be Telcos key advantage, as we have already seen with Telstra, bundling PayTV and broadband and fixed line allows them to lower prices and increase sales. A pure content provider like Amazon, does not have the same advantage.  So while a customers may be in love with their white (or black) Apple products, purchasing each device and service separately is costing them more, Telcos need to leverage this price differentiator as much as possible to grow their market share.


    Industry demands answers from FirstNet on network’s cost and business model

    28 Jun

    FirstNet board members has just approved the spectrum-lease agreement with the Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System (LA-RICS). It is the first spectrum-lease arrangement approved by FirstNet.

    What is the current status? All seven Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) recipients that received the largest grant amount—$154.6 million, have been negotiating a spectrum-lease arrangement with FirstNet—the licensee for public safety’s 20 MHz of broadband spectrum in the 700 MHz swath—since February 2013. Although the base agreement was supposed to be completed by May, two 30-day extensions have been granted, so that the BTOP recipients could finalize the terms of their deals with FirstNet.

    Although spectrum is one of the viable network’s factors, when referring to Public Safety Networks, there are also other major issues that need to be considered before the upcoming RFI/RFP. Interoperability across a common standardized network where all agencies could intercommunicate is urging, selecting also the right robust technology that could vary from microwave to satellite solutions. What about the role of the commercial mobile networks, are they the roaming partners and what else could they contribute?


    Teri Takai, member of the FirstNet Board of Directors , in her recent interview commented, “FirstNet over the next few months will be engaging in extensive outreach with state, local and tribal entities and territories to better understand their unique public safety needs and challenges. Currently is running a “listening tour” seeking input from vendors and public safety communities”.

    If FirstNet is still in “listening tour”, still working on a serious financial plan, what is the timeline moving forward? A timeline to build that expected new infrastructure is still in plans, when the Congress has already contributed $2B and offered the spectrum that keeps sitting there without anybody using it to generate revenues. The Congress is signaling to the vendors, to develop equipment and devices, announcing a $7B value market, rushing them to deliver in a short term. The remaining $5B is expected from auctions in the next 2-3 years. The current funding ($2B) is not enough to build a nationwide network that will cover each sqm, which is not part of the legislation yet, but definitely could warm up the engines in a combination with the spectrum availability.

    However, FirstNet needs to show a financial plan that answers industry’s concerns. “What is the cost of the new network and what is the business model” Who is taking the financial risk? Will Wall Street put money in as it already claimed? The current national footprint does not have enough users to sustain any cost. Currently, there are about 5.4 million PS estimated US users. Will they pay any subscription? Probably not since most of them are already using and paying fees to use the mobile commercial networks.

    Some of the best options would be to go with the numbers and built infrastructure that could “fit in” the budget, selecting the right private partners and vendors that could deliver and guarantee the network’s safety meeting the requirements.  It would be really difficult costwise to maintain and upgrade the network as the new LTE releases arrive. Operationalizing innovations in the field could be also another option to overcome business hills and technicalities. Commercializing spectrum to maintain PS operation, as in the beginning not all spectrum will be needed for mission critical applications could generate some revenues. A secondary spectrum usage from carriers in a case to case mode could generate revenues under the strict condition that PS agencies could grab it back when needed or at least as much as it was required at any given time. That could work with carriers that need additional capacity but definitely not with major players in large markets.

    Closing this note, Canada and UK are mirroring and following closely any FirstNet’s moves and decisions. Thus it is extremely important FirstNet to succeed during 2013 and set the ground for more robust PS networks with sustainable business models that could be implemented in other markets.


    Alcatel-Lucent’s Shift Plan Looks to IP and Ultra-Broadband

    20 Jun

    Alcatel-Lucent outlined a “Shift Plan” aimed at transforming the company from a generalist supplier of networking solution into a specialist provider of IP Networking and Ultra-Broadband Access.  The company is targeting Euro 1 billion in reduced sales, general and administrative (SG&A) expenses over the next three years as it makes a decisive in its industrial focus toward high-value equipment and services. 

    Current business segments outside of this new area of focus include Terrestrial Optics, Submarine, Wireless Transmission, Network Applications, Integration Services for Strategic Industries, Consulting Businesses and OSS/BSS.

    “Today we are taking comprehensive action to position Alcatel-Lucent at the heart of the digital ecosystem, a place from which we will be able properly to capitalize on our many strengths. The Shift Plan is fundamentally an industrial plan that also addresses the Group’s operational and financial challenges by putting in place a strong and fully accountable leadership team with clear goals and the appropriate levers to deliver on these goals and on our commitments to all stakeholders,” stated Michel Combes, Alcatel-Lucent’s CEO.

    Key points of the plan:

    • Grow revenues in Core Networking by more than 15%, from Euro 6.1 billion in 2012 to over Euro 7 billion in 2015,
    • Lift operating margins from 2.4% in 2012 to more than 12.5% in 2015.
    • IP, cloud and ultra-broadband portfolio at the center of operations, including WDM, 100G, IMS and customer experience product lines, as well as the ‘FTTx’ group of fiber-based connectivity technologies serving homes, businesses and other types of premises, vectoring, the 4G LTE mobile wireless access and small-cells.
    • Bell Labs will continue to be the company’s innovation engine, with an 8% increase in R&D from 2013 through 2015. IP and Ultra-Broadband Access will represent 85% of R&D investment in 2015.
    • Alcatel-Lucent’s intellectual property portfolio will become a dedicated profit center and will adopt an entrepreneurial approach to licensing in order to develop a solid revenue stream from its library of more than 30,000 patents and 16,000 applications.
    • On a cash basis, The Shift Plan is expected to be self-funding over the 2013-2015 period.  Once the company has clearly demonstrated the successful execution of the Shift plan, it plans to seek a reduction of its debt by approximately Euro 2 billion including through further asset disposals or through access to the equity markets in order to support its long-term strategic goals.
    • The company did not announce any further job cuts at this time although reductions are planned.
    • Alcatel-Lucent will reduce the number of countries in which it operates from 185+ to 145 countries.  It will go from 100+ sales offices to 75 sales offices. It will consolidate warehouse and purchasing locations.
    • The company will undertake a 40% cut in real estate and sites, reducing its footprint in non-strategic locations.
    • In Manages Services, the company will address its 15 unprofitable contracts.

    The new leadership team:

    Business Lines

    • Basil Alwan, IP Routing & IP Transport
    • Andrew Mcdonald, IP Platforms
    • David Geary, Wireless
    • Federico Guillen, Fixed Networks

    Transversal functions

    • Philippe Guillemot, Operations
    • Philippe Keryer, Strategy & Innovation
    • Robert Vrij, Sales

    Corporate functions

    • Nicole Gionet, Human Resources
    • Tim Keller, Legal
    • Paul Tufano, CFO of Alcatel-Lucent, will step down from his role once implementation of The Shift Plan is under way.

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