Friday, December 23, 2011

Why "wireless broadband" will remain in mobile market segment

This article in CED magazine explains why 4G cell service can't substitute for premises wireline Internet service:
Even if you’re a light user or a millionaire, you might still think twice about going entirely wireless. Allen Nogee, principal analyst for In-Stat, says he actually tried an LTE modem as his sole Internet connection for about four months. He was pleased with the service; however, he did eventually go back to a fixed line for a number of reasons.

Nogee says that while price is certainly an issue, depending on usage, spectrum is the truly prohibitive element that will prevent LTE from becoming an in-home solution. Nogee says that eventually the cell towers currently pumping out LTE will get crowded, and that’s when things get complicated.

“It’s a shared resource, with a set amount of spectrum, and operators only have so much spectrum,” Nogee says. “If we had no wired Internet in the United States and everyone attempted to use LTE, it just wouldn’t work. There’s just not enough capacity there.”
Another analyst, Strategy Analytics, predicts fixed wireline will remain the primary premises Internet connection and will not be displaced by 4G wireless connections where wireline infrastructure exists and serve as an alternative means of access where it does not.
“We see two parallel markets for 'Mobile Only' in the US: users in remote or underserved areas where dependable fixed broadband is unavailable, and cost-conscious casual users, who are unlikely to exceed imposed data caps, and for whom mobile data rates are ‘good enough,’” said Ben Piper, Director of the Service Provider Strategies program at Strategy Analytics.
What about tablets? Might tablet users cut the cord to these devices and instead rely exclusively on mobile wireless connections, especially since tablets are so portable? Not likely. Nearly all tablet data traffic will be transported via fixed premises Internet service, Sandvine says in its broadband predictions for 2012.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Documentary explores challenges and alternatives to getting sorely needed Internet infrastructure

Rob Osborn of Sacramento, California-based shibuya-tv, LLC has released his long awaited documentary, Broadband Blindness, that discusses the challenge of building adequate digital infrastructure to deliver premises Internet connectivity to meet exponentially growing bandwidth demand.

Also covered are alternative business models to construct the necessary infrastructure to customer premises including telecom cooperatives such as the one I formed in my community, the Camino Fiber Network Cooperative.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Susan Crawford on the state of U.S. Internet access

Susan Crawford has penned an excellent overview of the current state of Internet access in the United States in The New York Times, The New Digital Divide.

As the title of her piece suggests, Internet access is highly fragmented. Cable companies provide limited wired access in discrete, monopolistic markets in densely populated metro areas for those able to afford the $100 monthly cost (when bundled with voice phone and video) that these cablecos can increase at will absent the check and balance of market forces and rate regulation.

Meanwhile, lower income Americans who can't afford both wired and wireless access rely on wireless smartphones for Internet connectivity that costs half as much as bundled wired access. So must those who can afford wired access but can't get it at any price because of incomplete build out of wireline infrastructure. But it's not full access and comes with major disadvantages versus wired premises service. Crawford explains:

The problem is that smartphone access is not a substitute for wired. The vast majority of jobs require online applications, but it is hard to type up a résumé on a hand-held device; it is hard to get a college degree from a remote location using wireless. Few people would start a business using only a wireless connection.

It is not just inconvenient — many of these activities are physically impossible via a wireless connection. By their nature, the airwaves suffer from severe capacity limitations: the same five gigabytes of data that might take nine minutes to download over a high-speed cable connection would take an hour and 15 minutes to travel over a wireless connection.

Even if a smartphone had the technical potential to compete with wired, users would still be hampered by the monthly data caps put in place by AT&T and Verizon, by far the largest wireless carriers in America.
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