|Topic:||Conquering through copper – delivering content wherever needed|
|Organisation:||The Kenton Group.|
Lee Palmer is the Commercial Director of The Kenton Group. He has more than 20 years of sales experience in senior roles: at Jtec, he served as EMEA Sales Director; at 3Com as Business Development Manager for the CommWorks division; ad at RAD /Axerra where he held the position of Carrier Business Development Manager and Sales Director.
With the growing demand for bandwidth to deliver the content today’s users require, especially given the growth in mobile device ownership and bandwidth-hungry applications. So there is a growing concern of a crunch in the future. Dealing with a crunch means choosing the most effective medium will be the key to operator success. Fibre will always be the number one choice, but copper is everywhere, inexpensive and inherently reliable, but for the last mile copper is here and available now.
The perpetual demand for ever increasing bandwidth and capacity on the world’s telecom networks continues year after year. This growth is driven by the increasing use of mobile-connected devices such as tablets, Smartphones, laptops and smart TVs, to name a few. High-definition video and streamed content on consumer devices is on the rise, and there is no sign of this growth slowing anytime soon.
There is a growing concern surrounding a future ‘capacity crunch’, where the ability to deliver capacity will be outstripped by demand. Each year new devices, increased capabilities and intelligence are being introduced in the market, with the number of mobile-connected devices set to exceed the number of people on earth by the end of 2013, reaching ten billion by 2016 . Regionally, Western Europe is going to have one of the fastest growth rates in mobile devices and connections with a 13 per cent and ten per cent compound annual growth rate from 2012 to 2017 respectively. By 2017, the Middle East and Africa will have the strongest mobile data traffic growth of any region at 77 per cent compound annual growth rate . These stats alone highlight the need for higher bandwidth – if we ignore the signals we will put increasing pressure on the networks, which may already be at risk of crashing in the next 20 years.
As content increases, bandwidth needs to expand
In order to stream high value content – TV, video, games or otherwise – uninterrupted, with zero buffering, more bandwidth is needed. Most cities and new commercial or residential developments are well connected as fibre infrastructure is now the de facto standard for connectivity, this means people can effectively use the myriad of IP services and more importantly, have the content they require delivered over a high speed medium. Fibre delivers unbeatable speeds and is as future proof as a technology can be. Fibre delivery reduces cost for deployment in areas where the population is higher. In fact fibre is now moving into the LAN environment with many corporates using Fibre to the Desk (FTTD) in buildings, by utilising GPON in the architecture, as it can reduce capital and operational costs by up to 70 per cent. This up and coming technology is called FiberLan and will have the ability to deliver high speed content to the desk.
While areas across EMEA, such as the big cities and urban areas of Scandinavia, England and France, are well served by carriers and already have superfast coverage (well above average at 65 per cent or more) , the suburbs and rural areas suffer.
In rural areas it is significantly more expensive to deploy fibre as the civil works are such a big part of the deployment. Rural areas are suffering from well below average superfast coverage (under 35 per cent) in three of the biggest countries in Europe – Italy, France and the UK . This is unsurprising due to the cost implications and means both business and residential customers in these areas are disadvantaged. They require higher levels of speed and service, but the service providers cannot support this without having to deploy new infrastructure. The costs associated with fibre installations are high and need to be divided over the number of customers served by the network and as such, costs become increasingly expensive as the number of customers served decreases.
Other superfast technologies have been created and merged with the three main technologies to cover 70 per cent of Europe – Docsis 3 cable (Data over Cable Service Interface Specification Version 3), VDSL (Very-high-speed Digital Subscriber Line) and FTTP (Fibre to the Premises). However, because of overlaps of these technologies, they reach barely 50 per cent of households . Mapping by broadband analyst Point Topic, reveals how much larger the digital divide is in rural areas, particularly where superfast broadband is concerned. 78 per cent of rural EU homes have access to standard broadband but only 12 per cent – five million – have superfast broadband available. Therefore, 35 million of the 40 million rural homes in Europe are waiting for superfast broadband to arrive.
Today’s technologies are very much built into everyday life and so digital deprivation can rightly be considered alongside more traditional social deprivations, such as low income, unemployment or poor education. Access to broadband brings great benefits to rural areas, improving quality of life through increased access to things like government services, e-learning, commerce and social interaction. Many of these services are delivered through video or VoIP and should be delivered effectively without interruption or buffering, and so bandwidth needs to increase.
Delivering the solution
It’s important to have the ability to deliver content wherever it is needed, regardless of location. Despite all the recent attention given to FTTH where cities and developing towns are benefitting from new superfast networks, it has reached only 12 per cent of Europe’s homes and the average take rate across MENA is only 33 per cent . This shows that users only ‘pay’ for the bandwidth they require to receive the content they demand. The solution for rural areas is much more complex but this should be an area for carriers to focus on, improving the amount of bandwidth they can squeeze out of copper through new technological advancements to deliver what the customer needs not what he perceives he needs. For the carrier and service providers it’s about maximising existing assets to enable content delivery.
For example, using innovative technologies to enhance the performance of existing copper-based networks, providers can extend the reach of broadband access lines and maximise usage on the existing infrastructure. By utilising technologies such as FTTX, VDSL, EFM bonding and even ADSL bonding, broadband reach can be extended and speeds can be increased. Utilisation of these new technologies makes it possible to achieve speeds of 10Mb, 20Mb and higher. One such technology BET (Broadband Enabling Technology), extends broadband service to 12Km from the exchange and allows an improved service level to be provided to so-called ‘not-spots’ beyond a local telephone exchange’s normal limit of around 5km. Although not considered Superfast Broadband it enables uninterrupted gaming or video streaming content to the user.
BET has been successfully deployed in the UK and, by using one or two pair copper cables, enables users to receive the same level of service as other broadband users positioned closer to an exchange. Broadband Regenerator (BBR) technology has also just been released to effectively boost the broadband speeds at the edge of the network, where users have ‘broadband’ but at relatively low speeds, say ½ Mb. BBR can boost this to up to seven times the current speed.
Both solutions require a head end cabinet to be deployed in the serving exchange, but simple connectivity to the copper infrastructure with a mid-line length regenerator to the customers’ NTE (Network Terminating Equipment) provides a cost effective clean solution to the “Not Spots” and low speed edge users. These users can then have the content they require delivered over what has rapidly become the fourth utility, broadband access.
User habits have undoubtedly evolved and will continue to do so, placing increasing demand on bandwidth to deliver the content the users require, particularly with the growth of mobile devices and bandwidth-hungry applications. Looking at the average family today, they could be sat at home streaming content on a SmartTV and iPlayer, as well as downloading data on their tablet and Smartphone. With this in mind, demand for higher bandwidth is only going to continue to increase and should be seen as an opportunity for vendors and operators across EMEA to make a difference to broadband accessibility. Choosing the correct and most effective medium is the key. Fibre will always be the number one choice, but don’t forget copper; it’s everywhere, inexpensive and inherently reliable. Copper in the last mile is here and it is available now, so don’t overlook what can be achieved on this network.