BBWF 2012: Broadband’s Come A Long Way, Baby!

Broadband World Forum celebrated its 12th year last week – highlighting just how far broadband has come in those twelve years – fixed broadband subscribers have grown from 30 million to more than 600 million in that same timeframe – while the number of smartphones has now exploded past 1 billion.

When I look back at those early conferences - China had virtually NO broadband subscribers, wireless broadband was all about Fixed Wireless Access, networks were ATM based and no one even talked about providing 1Gbps access to a residential customer.

In 2005, Telecom Italia talked about “stretching copper as much as possible” – as this theme as remained true as VDSL2 Vectoring took center stage at this year’s event – with numerous vendor and service provider announcements on the topic.

Although ubiquitous FTTH remains a goal for the industry – there was surprisingly little talk about where this was going as there was almost no mention of 10G-PON and beyond. ZTE did offer a prototype demonstration of its TWDM PON (NG-PON2), but indicated is not does plan to see commercial launch of this technology for at least 5 years.  Finally, discussions with multiple vendors indicate there has been very little operator interest in 10G-PON to date.

One thing that hasn’t change is the prediction from nearly 10 years ago that evolution of the access network would be driven by video – the difference between then and now is that the concern was focused on delivering IPTV services – no one was anticipating the potential impact of OTT video services or that we would consume video on anything other than our TV or a PC.

The cloud is enabling new services, applications and business models across multiple verticals and industries and finally allowing users to access their content anywhere, at anytime and on any device.

As such, the cloud is playing a key role in the delivery of Smart Home services.  Although these types of services (e-health, e-education, security, entertainment, wellness, etc.) have been discussed for years – the tools, devices and applications are now in place to make this a reality.  Perhaps, more importantly, policy and management tools have been introduced to enable operators to optimize their networks, monetize their services and ensure quality of service and experience.

Perhaps what has been most evident is just how important broadband has become to the entire global market.  Broadband has and will enable e-Government, Tele-Health, Connected vehicles, Smart cities, Smart girds, Virtual universities and the entire Internet of Things (IoT).

European Commissioner Neelie Kroes in her speech ” Connecting Europe:  Fast Broadband for All” discussed the positive impact of ICT on job growth, productivity and GDP – as long as continuing investment in the infrastructure is made.

And her point is well taken. According to a report from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), the Internet Economy of the G-20 Countries was 4.1 percent of total GDP, representing $2.25 trillion. By 2016, this is expected to grow to 5.3 percent or $4.23 trillion.  Emerging markets will be responsible for approximately 34 percent of the overall Internet economy of G-20 nations and for 48 percent of growth.  Internet economy as a percentage of GDP for the G-20 countries is shown below:

But there continue to be many challenges to providing “Usain Bolt Broadband Speeds” with regulatory remaining a large obstacle in many markets.

Regulatory remains a huge issue, yet there was no focused regulatory track.  Where was the FCC or OFCOM or representatives from any of Europe’s largest markets?  I would have also liked to have seen a Fiber vs.Copper debate among large operators or perhaps a panel of countries with National Broadband Networks – to illustrate the success of these initiatives.

Broadband World Forum tried to cover alot of ground – too much in my opinion.  Six concurrent tracks with topics ranging from smart energy to connected vehicles to traffic management to broadband components diluted the value of the overall conference.  Next year – there will be six conferences as part of the Broadband World Series – will there be enough relevant content to make people want to attend multiple conferences – let alone pay for sponsorships?

One thing that did work this year was the broadband – at least in the conference rooms.  The first time in 12 years we had useable broadband at the broadband conference.

Broadband – You’ve come a long way, baby!

 

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