The majority of fixed access networks today are upgraded copper and coax networks optimized for uni-directional data, broadcast TV and phone services. The triple-play momentum has peaked, and two-way media distribution access symmetric access is emerging. This is the first in a series of posts outlining the main drivers and access network options for different geographical locations.
The next access wave must be optimized for a world where video- and cloud-centric services shape demand for two-way media distribution access, which will be the target for fixed “broaderband” access going forward. This movement is currently restricted to parts of society and is not a universal trend.
Regulators will shift focus from universal service obligation (USO) for past services, such as plain old telephone service (POTS), TV and one-way-surfing, to universal enablement of future services. Video and cloud services will drive demand for increased upstream, as well as downstream, capabilities. Fiber and radio combinations will be the technologies of choice while business model innovation will play a central part of the access evolution. Operators face a strategic choice in either sticking to legacy access and a valuation as a utility or investing in an awesome access network and becoming valued for the growth potential.
As outlined in a previous series of posts about the future of IP video traffic, the new access networks will be driven by camera/screen equipped devices. And services will be media consumption, production and collaboration intensive.
The two-way media-centric access will emerge in different ways depending on location and network starting point. Fiber-to-the-Home is a given for access coverage build-out in new real estate areas. The reach of the VDSL2 and Fiber overbuild of the legacy copper networks can be extended to new neighborhoods. Fiber has also become the norm for connecting business buildings for Ethernet services, as well as to buildings with small cells.
The installed base of Fiber in The Loop (FITL) systems from the early 1990’s are candidates for upgrades, and the last coax drop in Hybrid Fiber Coax networks is about to be replaced with fiber. Rural/urban copper access in unprofitable areas can be replaced with Fixed Wireless LTE access. The copper networks in villages and small cities can be extended with improved video capabilities. All these access upgrades will be made with the objective of providing the best feasible two-way media distribution access in any given area.
My predictions for the fixed broaderband access network evolution across these areas will be exploited in detail in future posts. My top-level predictions are:
- The operators that invest in an aggressive access transformation strategy can, should and will be valued for growth potential rather than cash-flow and dividends.
- In addition to market forces, national broadband plans and regulations play a key role in defining the cornersstones of these new capabilities for the benefit of the whole society.
- Seven to nine deployment scenarios are required to support the needs of a given country, in order to secure that no digital divide emerges as a societal divider