Posted by: miniflex | March 30, 2010

What will Chapter 3 of the National Broadband Plan mean for Fiber Networks

Following on from our previous articles on the US National Broadband Plan, this article discusses in more detail Chapter 3 which addresses the current state of the broadband ecosystem.

1. Increasing availability of bandwidth is driving internet growth, i.e. the more we get, the more we use.

  • Broadband use has increased from 1 hr per month in 1995 to 29 hrs per month at the current time, and this correlates to available network performance.
  • Average user data consumption 9Gb per month, some up to 1000Gb per month and data used per household increases by roughly 30% annually.
  • Two thirds of the time users spend online is for communication, searching, entertainment and social media./li>
  • 97% of Small Businesses use e-mail, and 74% have a company website. The internet enables many to trade globally.
  • Investment in information and communications technologies accounted for two-thirds of all economic growth attributed to capital investment between 1995 and 2005.
  • Cloud computing is growing as bandwidth improves to allow companies and individuals to use hosted hardware solutions.

This goes to prove that whatever the consumer gets, the consumer fills. Broadband usage grows as more bandwidth is provided. In this sense, it’s similar to buying yourself a much larger house.
No matter how big the house, you always find a way to fill it.
In comparison to British Telecom’s views that no-one wants Gbps connections, it would seem that if they were to provide a 1Gbps connection, the consumer would find a use for it.

2. Internet-enabled devices are not only the present, but also the future.

  • 80% of US households have some sort of personal computer.
  • 172 million mobile phones were sold in the US in 2009, 27% of these were smartphones.
  • New devices include E-book readers, Medical patient monitoring and Electricity monitoring/control systems.
  • 39 million set-top boxes were shipped in 2007 and 2008 combined and a lack of innovation is limiting consumer choice.

The NBP coins a term the ‘Internet of Things’ which means that more and more of the electronic devices used today can communicate with us and with each other using available networks. Should this growth continue, these devices will create a much greater demand on both fixed and wireless networks.

3. Broadband is already widely available and progressively improving.

  • 10 largest network service providers have combined revenue of $350b and annual capital investments in excess of $50b.
  • 290 million people (95% of population) live in units with access to broadband infrastructure supporting download speeds of at least 4Mbps.
  • 14 million people do not have access to broadband infrastructure supporting speeds of at least 4Mbps.
  • 96% of all businesses have access to DSL, 92% have access to Cable broadband.
  • 99% of all healthcare with physicians have access to at least 4Mbps but only 71% of rural clinics have access to mass-market broadband solutions.
  • 97% of schools are connected to the internet. However, 50 % of teachers say slow or unreliable connections prevents technology use in classrooms.
  • Many businesses, schools and hospitals have requirements that can’t be met on mass-market broadband and therefore they must use T-1 or Gig-E connections.
  • Verizon plans to pass over 17 million homes by the end of 2010 with FTTP, AT&T will serve 30 million homes with FTTN by 2011. Many smaller FTTP deployments planned.
  • Cable companies upgrading networks to DOCSIS 3.0 over next few years, enabling d/l speeds of over 50Mbps, Top 5 cable companies pass 80% of countries homes.
  • Current Planned upgrades are unlikely to target americans that are currently unserved.
  • Advertising of broadband speeds can be misleading, as connections are on average 40-50% of the advertised maximum speed.
  • 3G covers 60% of US Landmass. 77% of population lived in an area served by 3 or more 3G providers.
  • LTE, or 4G mobile broadband is likely to be rolled out by the main providers between now and 2013, leading to an improvement in spectral efficiency of up-to 50%

Most of America is already served by broadband technology, though not all connections are reliable or cost-efficient. The increased use of fiber will improve the reliability, and help reduce the gap between advertised and available broadband speeds.

It is promising to see that many of the network providers are already working on deployment of next generation technologies, though it seems that there is no major specific action addressing those currently unconnected.

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