By Rob McCann
AS AGGREGATE BROADBAND consumption continues to grow at a 50% compound annual growth rate and threatens to outstrip our ability to service its demand, the message I have for independent service providers is to Think Big.
At that growth rate, systems can expect that networks will need to be at least 7.5 times larger than they are today in as little as five years. The growth appears to be driven by the “hybridization” of content. That is, multi-format combinations of media being presented to subscribers on multiple platforms – including the recent rush to extend access to movies from the traditional subscription or video-on-demand platforms to Internet-based cloud services. These applications not only drive consumption and new construction in the traditional terrestrial network but promote the mobilization of consumption, thereby creating a demand for more ubiquity of the networks. Simply put, more networks in more places.
To meet the ongoing demands, services providers need to consider replacing traditional networks with passive optical and Wi-Fi networks. Passive optical networks, otherwise known as fiber to the home (FTTH), provide an immediate bandwidth boost while future-proofing the network as further upgrades become a matter of changing the devices on the ends instead of in the field. Regardless of technology chosen; EPON, GPON, Active Ethernet, RF over Glass (RFoG), 10GEPON, or even combinations, the short term capacity increase is significant and the cost is comparable to (and sometimes less than) building more traditional networks. Many systems, particularly those with pressing rebuild or greenfield requirements, are already well underway.
The rest need to start today.
An area that is inadequately addressed is the extension of those networks into the places where subscribers live, work, and play. Subscribers are demanding connectivity and content in places where wired connections are simply not feasible and in volumes that will greatly exceed the capacity of the current and emerging cellular technologies. Meanwhile, wireless carriers will need too much infrastructure in too many places while at the same time many citizens prefer not to have towers around, to be remotely effective in addressing the growth requirements.
However, most folks generally accept the ubiquity of Wi-Fi built into all their devices and are quick to find an unobtrusive and accessible access point where ever they need it. The maturity of Wi-Fi and its ability, with proper engineering, to provide good coverage makes it an ideal candidate for broad service provider deployment.
There is strong public interest in the expansion and ubiquity of networks. Municipal governments are counting on broadband networks to deliver digital inclusion and economic development. Where the demand is neglected by service providers, it will be picked up by the community as a necessary public good. Service providers need to act now to put more networks in more places, and in doing so, think big!
Rob McCann is president of Clearcable Networks, a Hamilton-based specialized consulting engineering firm focused on the needs of mid-market broadband service providers and the development of new residential and business services products in Canada and United States. He gave a version of this column as a presentation at this week’s CCSA Connect Conference. www.clearcable.ca