Technology | Media | Telecommunications

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

How Broadband Affordability Limits Global Adoption

There are people in developed nations who simply don't want broadband access to the Internet -- clearly, they're now in the minority. Increasingly the most significant barrier to further broadband adoption around the world is affordability -- or the lack thereof.

Now leaders across the telecom sector are working together to bring broadband services into the reach of the digitally deprived, according to the latest market study by Point Topic.

With superfast broadband solutions finally reaching the marketplace, it is more important that infrastructure suppliers are able to align their network offerings -- and service providers implement delivery solutions -- that are cost effective.

Standards are core to the effort says Point Topic CEO Oliver Johnson. "The next wave of broadband, commonly entitled Superfast, is gathering momentum."

With more than half a billion fixed lines already in use and many markets extending the reach of fixed broadband across their populations, the spectre of a deepening digital divide rears its head.

On a global basis, if service providers can shave 1 percent off the cost of a broadband service then that brings it into the economic reach of at least another five million households.

While some countries have already deployed fiber optic infrastructure through a large percentage of their networks there are plenty of places, commonly outside the business districts and high density areas, that will not support a commercial roll-out of full passive or active optical implementations.

"GPON is winning the debate," says Johnson. "Its economic advantages, particularly at the moment, are a powerful argument and mean that it’s likely to be the dominant fiber technology for the next few years at least."

Standards can help make the savings even more attractive. Economies of scale are significant in producing and providing the necessary infrastructure elements for GPON deployment -- particularly when it comes to commercial consumer roll-out.

Johnson says "It’s way too early to say we’ve solved the availability issue for broadband. There are still plenty of countries with lower penetration. That said, the majority of those countries are where broadband services are not in households -- because they can’t afford it. Even in mature and relatively rich broadband markets there are significant shortfalls in take-up due to the cost of a subscription."

Standards are one component of a plan of action to reduce the price of a broadband access for those who seek its socioeconomic benefits. Service provider competition and technological advances can also make a significant impact.