Yet another study has been released that seems to back up many of the earlier ones I have been reading. Emarketer’s study details several important trends and makes a number of predictions as to what we might expect in the coming three years.
Not surprisingly we find steady growth predicted in many of the important areas that we think of as broadband indicators including adoption of on-line banking, E-commerce, content purchases and VoIP adoption.
This is something we need to seriously consider from several standpoints probably the most important being the necessary infrastructure we will need to accommodate this forecast increase in traffic. From a Wireless perspective I see a developing problem as VoIP and on-line content become more popular. It is now (based on current year technology) a pretty widely accepted fact that individual access points can only handle a maximum of roughly 10 concurrent VoIP sessions before they max out. As we approach the maximum we find that two things occur, the Quality of Service degrades and finally the inability of the access point to distribute any additional information such as bandwidth intensive applications such as on-line multimedia content.
The problem doesn’t stop there. The flood of packets will also wreak havoc on the backhaul equipment (assuming this is a pure wireless infrastructure) possibly degrading other WiPOPs in the process. In other words, as the technology stands at this moment we have to wonder at what point the entire technology ceases to be able to meet our needs.
To a certain extent the same holds true for the competing technologies (cable and DSL) as they are asymmetrical, limited in aggregate bandwidth and also have a point of saturation that needs to be looked at. Some of the providers are now looking to fiber as the technology of the future but I would question which will happen first, the widespread adoption of these newer services or the deployment of fiber infrastructure. I don’t think there is any doubt in even the most optimistic pundits that fiber will be 100% deployed in the US by the end of 2008 without the immediate institution of a “Manhattan Project” like initiative. The reality is that even if such an initiative were to be embarked on this morning, the delay in our legislative and regulatory process coupled with the necessary time for the industry to ramp up and their associated hardware manufacturers’ lead time would take most of the time we forecast as having left before these changes hit.
We can simply draw the conclusion that the consumer market will adopt these services at a rate that exceeds our ability to provide them. If that is the case it might be logical to assume that in many places we will have a situation where the Internet has services available where the local network cannot deliver them – regardless of demand. This is not substantially different from the situation many Americans find themselves in now in areas where dialup is the only realistic connection to the net.
This now creates a division that reminds me of the historic “wrong side of the tracks” description but one brought into today’s age as more of the “wrong side of the digital super highway” instead. Will this lead to emigration from many of the areas that do not have the necessary infrastructure? Will parents be forced to leave a geographic region to provide their children with the opportunities that will be required in the coming future? Will the value of a location now be determined by the quality of connectivity available? Will this happen? I submit it already is happening but that the effect will be significantly more pronounced in the next few years as the services that are offered become more valuable to our society.
During the last Presidential campaign both parties pledged to work on this problem with President Bush pledging to bring broadband to 100% of this country by the end of 2007.
“Bush said the entire country should have access to high speed Internet access by 2007. He has ordered federal agencies to make it easier for broadband providers to get access to federal land, and he supports banning any Internet taxes. Bush is also pushing for increasing spectrum for wireless broadband.”
As we cross the midpoint of 2005 (leaving a little more than 30 months before the end of 2007) how are we doing in real, measurable terms toward the goal of ubiquitous broadband throughout this country? Does anyone believe we will even come close to this campaign promise? With a huge portion of the country (geographically speaking) having next to no broadband connectivity how could this goal be realized? The answer is (as best I can figure) we will not be able to realize this goal and while the demand will be there the infrastructure most certainly will not.
There is several interesting unknowns that may help alleviate this problem, the 3650MHz band that was newly introduced, WiMAX (if the price and availability issues are dealt with in a timely fashion) the rise of independent fiber companies like Jaguar Communications and perhaps the biggest unknown, the ability of technology to innovate faster than many of us can predict.
I look forward to that possibility as the alternative seems rather bleak in contrast. We do, indeed, live in interesting times.