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Monday, 14 December 2009

Build it and they will come

As has been discovered with roads, the wider you make them to cope with existing traffic, the more traffic seems to use them. Now, the mobile operators are facing a similar problem which is also taxing the fixed network operators.

Having encouraged data usage over mobile phones, the mobile operators are now finding that the infrastructure is struggling to cope. The conundrum is that even if they expand their networks, data usage will continue to grow exponentially. However, they cannot keep charging for usage to keep pace with the returns required on this (continuing) investment because they have instituted 'all you can eat' data plans that consumers have become accustomed to.

The same is going to occur on fixed line networks, and is already occurring in countries, such as the UK, where the core infrastructure was never designed to handle the phenomenal (and growing) usage we are seeing.

So, what are the potential solutions to this quandary? AT&T are proposing "education of users" so that people limit the amount of data they use and take some responsibility for not overstretching the under-powered network teh telcos are providing. A second solution is to look at intelligent routing and caching - such as that apparently being discussed by BT and Google with Content Connect

There is a third option that seems to terrify operators, both mobile and fixed. Become a big, fat, dumb pipe. Forget all the other bells and whistles you are trying to flog, and just focus on one thing - providing a profitable fat pipe that does its job.

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GuyJ said...

Option three is scary territory indeed - what no First Mile toll booth?!

Something seen in the Hull market is a massive uptake of mobile broadband 3G dongles relative to the rest of the UK - the cost of 3G data (where it is attainable) eliminates the hidden fixed line rental of copper wire required to also access ADSL broadband.

Whilst mobile broadband can fill in some useful gaps and offer better value for a few Mbps of download speed today, the current architecture simply cannot scale up to deliver access performance of the level offered by FttH

However femtocells driven from residential FttH, now that's a different story

MB94128 said...

Option two is the one that caught my eye. In San Francisco, the city I grew up in, Pacific Bell (now AT+T) had exchange buildings in most neighborhoods (e.g. Ninth Ave. + Geary). With the evolution from relay racks to CBX's (Comp.Branch Exchanges, e.g. ESS5) much of the floor space was freed up for other purposes.

There was a lot of talk about co-location of various kinds off and on for the last couple of decades. I haven't heard much of anything about how much space is available. So if that space is still available then caching servers could be deployed to free up bandwidth.

BT probably has their own sizable piles of brick for their exchanges. I would be very surprised if there weren't empty spaces with scarred floors at most of them.

Cybersavvy UK said...

As I recall, BT flogged off the majority, if not all, of the exchanges to Telereal, and now rents them back! (

Personally, I think much of what is required is a combination of all three options.

Educate users so they know what their connection is capable of, and what impact their usage has on neighbours etc (and then campaign HARD for a better network so that we can all do the funky stuff we currently can't!); local caching of common content, plus stop sending info out to the Net that is destined locally (eg me sending a video to my neighbour - if I could!); and finally, better infrastructure run by smaller, tighter, fast-reacting companies with a vested interest in transporting as many packets as possible.