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The Broadband Consumer Dilemma

I’m writing this en route back to Austin, flying at over 500 miles per hour at an altitude of 35,000 feet. And I’m really frustrated that the in-flight internet isn’t working.

It is truly absurd.

Not that it’s not working but that I “expect” to maintain constant connectivity while being in a flying can more than 6 miles up in the sky.

But I do.

I’m not proud of it…and even wince a bit because I recall a comedian who in a skit made fun of reactions like this…of people like me. [Editor’s note:  here’s a video clip of Louis C.K.’s comedy clip that Doug references.]

The challenge for providers is that I believe there are a lot of people like me.  Our level of expectation is pretty outrageous and only getting higher.  In a stadium with 100,000 other smartphone carrying people, the air is filled with complaints about mobile connectivity, with the complainers not giving thought to the fact that they are in the midst of effectively 1/7th the population of my city packed into a single square block and seemingly all of them are tweeting, foursquaring, or facebooking about that last great play (which, for the Longhorns, was last year, btw).  Trying to download a video around 9pm - the start of the Internet’s prime time as we covered last week -- we complain about how “slow” the internet is, not giving any thought to the fact that the rest of the neighborhood is downloading a high-def movie too, or playing Halo, or having a video call.

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A Mobile Broadband Day in Washington

Significant news today from the federal agencies whose job it is to find 500 MHz of radio spectrum needed for the booming mobile broadband market, 300 MHz of that needed in the next five years.

First, the National Information and Telecommunications Administration in the Department of Commerce announced that it would soon be releasing a report that will identify 115 MHz of spectrum available for commercial broadband in the next 5 years:  1675-1710 MHz and 3550-3650 MHz.   NTIA also said it would continue to examine 20 MHz of spectrum on both ends of the 4200-4400 MHz band for possible use, as well as potentially relocating federal users at 1755-1780 MHz.

Meanwhile, across town, the Federal Communications Commission hosted a day-long Spectrum Summit.  At that Summit, the FCC released the results of a new study:  “Mobile Broadband:  The Benefits of Additional Spectrum.”  I’m pleased that Cisco figures prominently in that study since the FCC used Cisco’s own Visual Networking Index demand data in evaluating the future demand curve for mobile broadband. The FCC’s study concludes that the demand growth will outpace both technology’s ability to become more efficient, and carriers’ ability to add more cell sites, so that by 2015, we’ll need 300 MHz of new spectrum to meet demand.   If anything, the FCC’s prediction may be very conservative.

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The Broadband Quality Study – Tracking the Broadband Revolution Worldwide

Broadband is a term that has been around for years and is admittedly overused.  What some refer to as “broadband” is really more of just a step up from narrowband…call it “slightly wider narrowband” if you will.  As many long-time readers of SP360 know, at Cisco, we’ve been a big proponent of having higher broadband standards and classifications since consumers, businesses, and governments alike stand to benefit.  It’s not enough to just get marginally faster email when most of the rest of the world is focused on video and other advanced applications which require not just bandwidth but intelligence as well.

While there are many studies that chart overall broadband penetration, or the percentage of a population that receives broadband (by whatever definition may be used), we realized a few years ago that there wasn’t a study that focused on broadband “Quality” (i.e. what that said broadband can actually do).  To that end, Cisco searched around and found interest in an effort from the Saïd Business School of Oxford University and the University of Oviedo’s Department of Applied Economics that we agreed to sponsor.  The effort, called  the Broadband Quality Study, or BQS, is now in its third year with the latest results just released.

So what’s the news this year compared to last year or in 2008 when the study debuted? While the BQS, which uses  the data from 40 million real-life broadband quality tests conducted in 72 countries around the globe between May-June of 2010, gives us many new insights and surprises every year, I would say the real standout result this year is the speed at which countries have been able to become broadband leaders in just a few years. While we have expected this trend in the past, the three years of data to draw on, the BQS only now really proves it: Read More »

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Measuring Broadband Penetration – By population, household or something else?

In working across different countries on their broadband strategies, inevitably the question arises of how does one best measure broadband penetration. Some countries have published figures of broadband based on a population (per capita) basis, while others have opted to adopt measures of broadband penetration by household. Why the difference of approach and what’s the significance of using one over the other?

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