Monday, August 15, 2016

Dismal state of U.S. telecom modernization enters new dilatory phase, prolonging infrastructure deficiencies

The dreary state of the modernization of America’s deficient telecommunications infrastructure -- already more than two decades tardy when it comes to the task of replacing metallic legacy telephone and cable systems with fiber optic to the premise infrastructure (FTTP) – is entering a new dilatory phase. Inspired by fellow blogger Steve Blum of Tellus Venture Associates, I’m dubbing it the “magic radio” phase. The goal: forestall FTTP infrastructure investment and instead experiment with various wireless technologies. As Blum correctly nails it, it’s based on “eternal hope that magic radios will appear one day and render wireline technology obsolete.”

It’s wishful thinking driven by the continued misguided reliance on undercapitalized investor-owned players like Verizon, AT&T and Google Fiber. All are looking into fixed premise wireless technologies, with Google Fiber the most recent, putting its FTTP builds on hold last week while it searches for the right radio magic. They all like the idea of employing wireless technologies for premise delivery because no one player has the many billions of dollars necessary to build out FTTP, spawning a search for lower cost alternatives.

The problem is the physics of radio spectrum are even more constrained than their finances. There’s only so much data than it can carry. Higher frequencies can carry significantly greater amounts. But only over such short distances that their use would require fiber to be brought so close to customer premises that the hoped for savings by avoiding FTTP deployment would be severely diminished. Not to mention the fact that higher frequencies are easily blocked and subject to interference without an unobstructed line of sight.

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