Broadband branches out
As someone who started in the fixed networking arena, it’s staggering to think of what’s encompassed by the words ‘broadband networks’ today compared to the quite finite description that would have fit in the past.
Just after leaving Broadband World Forum (BBWF) a few weeks ago, I had a revalation about the evolution of brodband networks – it came to me while exploring a cemetery (of all places!) in north-eastern France.
You see, I am the family genealogist, and every time I’m back in Europe, I take the opportunity to undertake some research. It struck me that the evolution of broadband, especially at industry events, has a lot in common with a family tree.
In the past, families tended not to physically move very far; they stayed in the same villages and towns for many, many generations. Nowadays, with the breakthroughs of the last century-and-a-bit-more and the reduction in cost of transport and communications technology, this has changed dramatically. Broadband has followed a similar track.
The rollout of fixed broadband attracted a lot of attention through the internet rollout and boom years. DSL was such a massive part of that. It was good to see that the core of events such as BBWF is still evident, with a lot of attention still focusing on how more capacity can be sweated out of installed copper. But that heritage is becoming a smaller part of the discussion.
The economics of fiber rollout has been the big talking point in recent years, and some compelling business models are being discussed, including the novel use of PON technology to backhaul HetNet 4G mobile access.
Aside from mobile, the other mega-trends that have influenced the flavor of the modern use of the term broadband networks are TV and the cloud. At most large industry events you go to, you can find a large array of home-located HD TV and Wifi technology, for example. You can also find an even bigger display and debate around networking, covering everything from access, backhaul, transport, and edge routing, and the technology that will sit in the network to deal with that traffic, optimizing content delivery and enabling operators to develop differentiated, personalized services (such as CDN and subscriber management).
It seems that the scope of broadband networking has exploded in the last year or two driven by the forces of the cloud, mobile and video, and has caused the main tradeshows to journey incredibly far from their heritage as a fixed (or mobile) network events. They are starting to look a bit like my family tree: living for many hundreds of years in a small geographic area, to spreading out over continents, the globe, as we are today.
The boundaries between the various stove-piped (Fixed/Mobile, Transport/IP) parts of the network are coming down, and tradeshows like BBWF are becoming a living embodiment of that force.
Watch my video from Broadband World Forum in Paris here.