Monday, December 12, 2011

Wireless solutions help maintain the digital divide

Can wireless replace wireline? The obvious answer is 'no', but it is remarkable to see that a growing number of companies is trying to answer 'yes'. Some instances:

  • Vodafone Germany: migrating DSL subs to LTE.
  • Verizon will not expand FiOS beyond the currently planned 18 million homes, instead relying on LTE and the new spectrum it is buying from cable companies (and perhaps also to safeguard peace with those very same cable companies).
  • Chinese investors are invading Belgium on the back of a 4G license for TD-LTE spectrum.
  • NSN has introduced outdoor CPE for TD-LTE based service.
  • O3b is building a global satellite network for 'the other 3 billion'.
  • SES (Astra2Connect) and WildBlue Communications are raising speeds (to 10 and 12 Mb/s) and lowering prices (to 28 EUR/mo and 50 USD/mo) for BB-over-satellite.
  • On the positive side: These solutions are for underserved areas (whether third world or rural) and will provide rather basic needs only.
  • On the negative side: These investments will reduce the direct need for fiber to rural areas, which may lead to an ongoing digital divide between rural areas (speeds up to 10 or so Mb/s, but in reality probably a lot lower and possibly capped) and denser areas (to be served by true FTTP, which is gradually moving to 1 Gb/s).

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