Some of the news today is great – Americans are adopting broadband at records rates. According to a recent SlashDot article triple the amount of people are now using broadband compared to this time in 2001.
The other side of that story is that we now define broadband as being 200Kbps up and down. To me this borders on absurd.
I have a buddy of mine that runs a WISP and we have been having an ongoing debate as to what we really need to be rolling out. He is of the opinion that the Internet follows Morse’s law and that the base speed of the average Internet connection should double every 18 months.
This leap of logic defies all explanation in my opinion. Moore’s law has nothing to do with the Internet directly it was based on an observation that the speed of microprocessors seemed to be doubling every 18 months. For those of us that follow that progression there have been periods where that level has been exceeded and other times when it has progressed substantially more slowly. Regardless, applying Moore’s law to the speed of the average Internet connection to me is about as useful as applying Ohm’s law.
The question remains, where do we need to go and what benefit will we as a society see? At what point would building a network with a planned throughput of 5 Mbps be less cost effective than a network of 50 Mbps? More importantly, do we need 50 Mbps for the average residential user?
Let’s look at the potential.
The new buzzword in the industry is the triple play. That’s right, phone, video on demand and Internet all rolled together by one supplier. Why is this cool? It is because the revenue is there as is the business model. Let’s face it, just about every single home has a telephone connection (landline or otherwise) most homes have some form of television and roughly half of the American population has Internet connectivity.
That’s a pretty solid market to be going after.
There’s also quite a bit of money on the table here. For the sake of discussion I am going to assign values to each of the above services as they sit. For the average telephone customer I would expect to see a minimum of $40 to $50 per month. The average television subscriber is probably close to the same bracket. Add $30 to $40 per month in for high speed Internet and you are looking at anywhere from a low of $40/month all to $140/month and this is on the low end. Throw in pay per view, a larger than average long distance bill, homes with more than one telephone line to accommodate a teenager or two and you could quite easily double that amount.
This means that the average suburban street could yield a gross billing of well over $1K for every ten homes! You collect enough of those clusters of ten homes and you could really be talking about some serious money.
Let’s not forget the next generation of cell phones will also look at connecting to a WiFi network to use a VoIP connection allowing the convergence of cell phone, cordless home phones and cheap VoIP all under one WISPs umbrella.
But the fun doesn’t stop there. In fact, HDTV and DVD on demand will also garner some extra revenue. If you think that’s interesting, how about true full screen HDTV quality video phone? I believe justification for that service can be found by looking at any webcam site. People by the thousands are putting up with horrible resolution at six frames per second. Why? Simple, because they want video and they want it bad enough to put up with grainy pictures that are little more than a series of stills.
Well, if there’s a demand, why isn’t the Telco or the Cable co providing it? The answer I believe is very simple also – bandwidth. This application would take up a lot of it and they can’t supply it.
This is where the wireless people need to seize the moment and pull ahead. We have the technology, the ability and the necessary skills.
So, what’s stopping us? Simple, the price of GigE hardware.
But all of that is about to change and change very quickly. We are pushing the speed envelope to places I never thought we would be able to drive it to. The newer 5GHz MIMO technology boasts a raw data throughput of almost 600Mbps. Freescale (the Ultra Wide Band people) just announced they will push their chips to the 1Gbps mark in the next year. The beauty of both these technologies is that they will be mass produced and available to us cheaply.
Currently, UWB isn’t allowed for outdoor use but I am old enough to remember when the equipment we now use for WISP deployment wasn’t allowed for outdoor use either. I’m betting that once the FCC has enough data that UWB doesn’t disrupt narrowband technologies they will allow us to start using it.
Whether they do or not really doesn’t make a difference to me because MIMO will take us there in the meantime.
I see a day where the United States decides that we will match Korea and Japan in speed and infrastructure. A day where I can sit in my home office and connect to the corporate LAN at GigE speeds just like I was in the building. A day where I can video conference with anyone I choose, use a split screen to work collaboratively on a spreadsheet and listen to my choice of streaming music all without seriously impacting the rest of the families connection.
What’s better is I see that day being ushered in using wireless technology. I see us, the little guys being the ones to roll this infrastructure out. And I see it happening in the next couple of years.
Call me an optimist.