15 Aug Bandwidth fairy tales: When will the "Three Little Pigs" get it right?
Just like the “Three Little Pigs” arguing about what they should build their houses out of, some of the incumbent phone companies are in a real quandary as to how they should build out their network infrastructure.
Verizon is definitely sold on fiber. AT&T is sold on some type of copper-based hybrid solution and Quest, along with its new CEO, Edward Mueller, is looking to see what the other two do.
Who’s afraid of the “Big Bad Wolf” of bandwidth demand? This is the one who eats up bandwidth like there is no tomorrow. Every month, he gets bigger and bigger and the Three Little Pigs get more afraid of confronting him. In other countries, he is revered and fed to his heart’s content.
Here in the United States, he is written off as myth and lobbied against as something that will never come to town by “Chicken Little,” hired by the Three Little Pigs to scare the legislators into locking in statewide agreements without making the Three Little Pigs commit to real gigabit upgrades.
AT&T is supposedly sticking with some type of copper-based infrastructure. According to the market intelligence firm iSuppli, VDSL (Very High Speed Digital Subscriber Line) is expected to be a mainstream access technology for the next 10 years at least. Perhaps over the next 25 years it will be replaced by FTTH (Fiber to the Home), but for now VDSL should continue to generate healthy sales growth for both OEMs and silicon suppliers.
AT&T thinks the migration path is the right way to go. Digging the land up is the big capital expenditure, but eventually you have to do that anyway to stay competitive.
It is interesting to note that in the last couple of months, according to an iSuppli researcher, AT&T has changed its approach on U-Verse (Project Lightspeed) to now go deeper into the neighborhood with fiber than what it first planned. Evidently, they finally came to the conclusion that 30Mbps wasn’t fast enough. Duh! We told them that in several articles over a year ago. Remember Project Speed Lite?
So now with the use of two twisted pair they can provide 50 Mbps using some new chips. Big deal. In talking with the one researcher, I told him that if I was building warships, why would I go with a better diesel engine to get a couple more knots when I could just put in a nuclear-powered engine? He did not disagree.
Personally, I don’t think VDSL on copper is the right conclusion, and based on reviewing global strategies, any copper-based end-user connectivity strategies will put us even further behind other countries that have made the commitment to fiber-based solutions.
When did we fall from being the “global leader to set the direction” to a “weak follower looking at which path of one of the global pack to follow?”
Hmmm, that sounds more like sheep. In either case, a following sheep or a market hog who wants to survive the global slaughter, neither make good decisions when thinking about fighting the inevitable Big Bad Wolf of Bandwidth demand.
Don’t you just love when the “experts” debate questions like, “If we are embarking on an upgrade project now, we should be taking it in incremental steps?” Shouldn’t we be looking at fiber to the premise? Why? Because you can do it once, and be done with it. You can attain gigabit speeds on it that you cannot get with some copper hybrid approach.
It is interesting to read these debates about what copper will evolve to in order to squeeze out another 20-30 Mbps. These experts don’t get the big picture. Forget about competing with COMCAST and other domestic competitors. Set the bar higher. Let them catch up.
We should be implementing technologies that can leapfrog us into the gigabit range to insure a world-class infrastructure. Multi-megabit speeds sound good, but are not what we should be aiming for in future architecture.
Wowing Wall Street
Someone said that they have to be aware of what Wall Street thinks of them. Fiber is a big investment and the numbers might not look good to Wall Street. When did any analyst on Wall Street put in a network infrastructure? And how many were right in predicting the current Wall Street dilemma?
The last time I looked, all the Wall Street experts couldn’t explain all the market jitters that dropped the Market a couple hundred points. They are worried about the credit crunch and rapidly growing foreclosure rate, but cannot connect it with underemployment and job erosion affected by labor dumping. It’s all interrelated.
If they only could see the big picture, they would be saying we need a solid network infrastructure in order to sustain regional sustainability. Economic development equals broadband connectivity, and broadband connectivity equals jobs.
Sorry I don’t buy the “we have to please Wall Street” explanations as to putting in an inferior network design instead of real broadband connectivity. We are losing ground in the world connectivity race.
Will slower speeds and filters deter piracy?
Maybe AT&T wants to deter piracy of video today because piracy really spotlights the weaknesses in their slower speed networks for today as well as tomorrow. According to one article:
Why the big change in AT&T’s position against Internet piracy? One reason is that Internet piracy is hogging bandwidth, placing new demands on the Internet’s access and backbone networks, and costing AT&T billions of dollars for infrastructure to keep pace with overall demand.
Various analysts estimate that about 5 percent of Internet users account for 50 percent of traffic.
It’s also estimated that these users are largely engaging in the free exchange of copyrighted content – movies, music videos, albums, popular TV shows and more – without copyright holders’ permission.
More content is moving to the Internet. Knocking out piracy would help ease Internet congestion.
Another reason for AT&T’s change of heart is that it wants to partner with the entertainment industry. AT&T is beginning to deploy an Internet-based TV service, called U-Verse, and will need Hollywood’s content to build a compelling offering. It wants what Hollywood has, and Hollywood wants AT&T’s help in solving the piracy problem.
AT&T’s achilles heel
The Internet is showing AT&T’s weak spots as more people move to accessing video content for many applications. Increasing video traffic is showing how AT&T’s approach is not the right one if you want to make it easy to move into more video-based content.
Instead of trying to filter piracy, they should be looking at how they can engineer larger fiber highways, interchanges, and intersections to alleviate congestion on the Internet highways.
Where are all the good engineers anyway? When AT&T had Bell Telephone Labs, money was no object. They could out-build anyone as to quality and speed of a network topology. They were sometimes criticized as being run by engineers, but based on the poor excuse for their new network upgrade, “U-verse,” which has been over-hyped and underdeveloped, those days are long gone.
Is AT&T being run by accountants looking to squeeze every last penny out of that underground copper and lobbyists that want to put in place protectionism of an obsolete business model?
What happened to key management phrases like “build world-class” and “best in class?” Their strategy is perforated with holes of weakness. Who turned executive leadership from a simple strategy of “Build the world’s best” into the “just keep up with the mediocrity of the market” strategy:
“Build what is acceptable, but in no way overbuild or overextend in the various geographic areas that will support a solid revenue stream. This approach shall be approved by the state legislature, but not anything that will cost a penny more than the formula we have applied, which gives strict guidelines to keeping in place obsolete network infrastructure that will not need any significant upgrades or transmission media change-outs until we say as specified in our statewide agreements to provide service that is as good as the competition, but not any better.”
Stopping the Big, Bad Wolf
Sorry but the Big Bad Wolf of Bandwidth cannot be satisfied by copper-based solutions and protectionism strategies. With all the video content being downloaded, the growing amount of games being played and all the other applications like YouTube and MySpace running, he will huff and puff and blow away any copper-based connectivity.
The big fairy tale is not the Three Little Pigs. The big fairy tale is the one being told to the American public that they can compete in a global economy with a copper-based network infrastructure that is designed more to keep incumbents’ pork and profits in place and needed innovation out of their place.
CARLINI-ISM: When you are thrown to the wolves, you either become one, or are eaten.
Recent articles by James Carlini
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• James Carlini: Product dumping, labor dumping – it’s all the same
• James Carlini: Green is the color of speed in ranking broadband infrastructure
• James Carlini: A disgusting video: U.S. companies sell out Americans
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This article previously appeared in MidwestBusiness.com, and was reprinted with its permission.
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