Personal Broadband Beckons
Scott E. Slater
Personal broadband—affordable, ubiquitous high-speed broadband—will
offer an IP-based, always-on, inexpensive primary online access for
your PC or laptop. This means that high-speed broadband will no longer
be limited to a building or a location, but instead it will terminate
with a user, device, or business. Software-defined network solutions
dramatically reduce the cost for wholesale and retail high-speed
broadband, everywhere. So why don't we have it already?
The core technologies to make personal broadband a reality are already
in place—Wi-Fi, for example, is a personal broadband technology.
However, Wi-Fi does not represent a sustainable service model because
it uses public spectrum, because it does not support end-to-end
class of service, and because it represents an addition to the
existing cost of broadband access. The upshot is that we're still
missing a clear global market vision and understanding of the personal
broadband opportunity and its scope.
That's problematic, because personal broadband services could deliver
true sustainable Internet economies—which in turn would deliver
new jobs, new opportunities, and new service industries. And many
new ways of looking at what the Internet, PCs, entertainment and
consumer electronics can offer, when the focus moves from mere access
to end-to-end IP interactivity.
Unlike with cellular services—which is an expensive, specialized,
and commoditized service model—virtually all kinds of Internet
industry leaders and smaller startups (cable, DSL, ISPs wireless,
software, entertainment, PC manufacturers and infrastructure) could
benefit directly in the US, Europe, Asia and beyond. Personal broadband
is scalable, efficient, and sustainable. Manufacturers and operators
attending 802.16 and 802.20 sessions are already investigating and
developing these inevitable IP-based solutions. Those will incorporate
smart antennas and use TDD (Time Division Duplex) spectrum to reduce
the cost and limitations of access of high-speed broadband for consumers,
business, entertainment, and technology around the world.
Economically, it will be possible to deploy multiple networks a
single market, offering previously-unthinkable opportunities for
the wholesale and retail and enterprise markets. So instead of having
one provider, personal broadband users will be able to choose from
multiple brands and capabilities that offer the services and solutions
that are most appropriate to the users' requirements.
Last month, personal broadband wholesale services were deployed
in Sydney, the first major global city to offer a Personal Broadband
service of 1 Mbps everywhere. Vodafone, TCI, Crown Castle, ArrayComm,
Mitsubishi, and Kyocera are all participants in this endeavor, and
for a retail price of what users tend to pay for dial-up access at
home, users can now get flat-rate, managed-cost, always-on Internet
access of 1 Mbps in their homes, in their offices—and everywhere
What do you think? If the cost of ubiquitous high-speed IP access
becomes equal to (or less than) the cost of fixed access, what other
services or markets would beg to be developed and deployed? How sustainable
would Internet and IP-based models be if everyone could afford online
access? And what might the results be, in areas such as investment,
services, and other sectors?
Scott Slater is a co-founder of the Personal Broadband Industry Association.