Reports of the Death of Fixed Broadband Have Been Highly Exaggerated

New Edge  In his keynote address at the Broadband World Forum (BBWF) in London this week, Federico Guillen, president of Nokia’s Fixed Network Business Group, underlined the role that fixed networks will play in achieving network transformation and true convergence with mobile as the world moves relentlessly into the seamless communications era of 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT.)

“A few years ago some people saw mobile as the only technology and, to some, fixed, wireline networks were effectively ‘dead,’” Guillen said. “Reality is, however, that fixed is very much back, stronger than ever, and it is a necessary technology to realize our gigabit societies of the future, delivering higher speeds than mobile, and being highly complementary.”

“This is especially true in the world of 5G and if we are to cope with the incredible opportunities of the IoT as we move towards digital societies of the future,” he added.

NTCA Members Discuss Rural Broadband With the FCC

This week NTCA members discussed broadband with United States senators, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Commissioner Ajit Pai. 

Wheeler met with members in Ohio on October 7 and West Virginia on October 11. He also took part in a roundtable discussion hosted by the Ohio Telecom Association that included representatives of large and small telecom service providers. NTCA members Ayersville Telephone Co. (Defiance, Ohio) and New Knoxville Telephone Co. (New Knoxville, Ohio) were in attendance, and they outlined the small-company perspective and the challenges they face, including how to sustain service in high-cost markets.


Ohio Telecom Association with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler

The next week U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D–W.Va.) hosted Wheeler at a broadband connectivity roundtable in Thomas, W.Va. NTCA members Hardy Telecommunications, Inc. (Lost River, W.Va.), Shenandoah Telecommunications Co. (Edinburg, Va.) and Spruce Knob Seneca Rocks Telephone, Inc. (Riverton, W.Va.) attended and discussed the challenges and opportunities of deploying broadband networks in the state. The discussions also included a debate about the second phase of a universal service mobility fund and access to “middle mile” networks.

Smart Phones, Smart Cops

  NYPD Blue, the ABC drama that aired from 1993-2005, is the source of a colloquialism that is used to describe the pairing of a short-sleeve dress shirt with a necktie: the Sipowicz. The namesake of that fashion statement was also one of two characters on the show to carry a Smith & Wesson revolver (model 36, to be specific) as opposed to a Glock, which at the time was on-duty firearm of the NYPD (officers currently can choose from Sig Sauer and Smith & Wesson models, as well). Sipowicz clung to the Smith & Wesson, an illustration of the character’s long-time roots in the department and his basic, no-nonsense approach to policing (“People, places, the things they do, the times they do them”). Although one might wonder what type of phone Sipowicz might carry if the show were broadcast today, the actual NYPD answered that definitively earlier this year when it completed a roll out of Windows smart phones to its 36,000 officers.

Is This the Real Life? Is This Just Fantasy?

New Edge  Undoubtedly, the 18 month-long presidential campaign that is now mercifully grinding its way toward a conclusion has left many longing for a means of escaping from the harshness of the real world.  According to IHS Markit, dramatically more people around the globe will be able to do just that in the near term future.

According to recently released forecasts from the London-based market research firm, the installed base of virtual reality (VR) headsets will grow from 4 million in 2015 to 81 million by 2020. That same year, consumer spending on VR headsets will reach $7.9 billion, and total spending on VR entertainment will reach $3.3 billion.

“While the VR headset installed base will escalate significantly to 81 million by 2020, we predict that expensive, higher-end headsets will dominate content monetization,” said HIS Technology director of games analysis Piers Harding-Rolls. “There will be a polarization of the VR market between lower volume premium VR headsets, which will have strong paid content conversion rates, and higher-volume cheaper smartphone VR headsets, which will monetize content at a lower rate.”

What's Standing Between Consumers and Smart Homes?

  Two main challenges are currently facing the smart homes market—cost, and customer understanding of the potential benefits of the new technologies.

This is the primary finding of a new report issued by Beecham Research, entitled “Smart Home Market—Current Status, Consumption Trends and Future Directions.”

“A basic light bulb is more than 20 times cheaper than its smarter counterpart,” said Beecham Research senior analyst Olena Kaplan, one of the report’s authors. “But evidence shows that consumers are willing to pay a premium price if they understand the value of the more expensive product. The crucial question is; does the smart bulb, or any smart home product, offer sufficient benefits for consumers to justify the price tag?"

In addition to cost and understanding, the report cites concerns about data privacy and lack of device interoperability as additional barriers to be overcome.

A Less Linear Approach

  I usually leave major NTCA meetings feeling simultaneously impressed and energized; impressed by the scope of issues that are implicated by rural broadband and the rural condition, generally, and energized by the ingenuity and opportunities they present.

This week’s Fall Conference featured a panel of three students – two high school and one college – who shared their perspectives on broadband connectivity. They discussed usage patterns for school, work and social needs; aspirations for the future and their individual desires to live in connected rural areas; and how parents’ “grounding kids from their phones” was a failed exercise in discipline when one mom realized she could not text her daughter.

I tend to view broadband applications in a somewhat linear form: how does broadband improve education, health care, economic development or public safety? But, three articles I read during a series of airport delays following the conference taught me about the scope of what broadband can do, and how increased connectivity is spilling back to effect change in so-called “brick and mortar” environments. If Robert Frost contemplated the road not taken, I was left thinking about analyses less linear.

You Have Built It...and They Have Stayed

New Edge  As the snail-like (yet doggedly persistent) recovery from the Great Crash of 2008-09 continues, one measure of economic health—the nation’s unemployment rate—had fallen from above 10% to its current level just south of 5%. But that’s an aggregate number. Certain demographic groups have done better than others, and some have seen their situation deteriorate substantially.

Just look at men in their twenties without a college degree, for example. In 1990, 4% of that demographic had not worked in the previous twelve month period. In 2015, that number ballooned to 20%.

So if these young men are not working, exactly what are they doing? Economists from Princeton, the University of Rochester, and the University of Chicago have studied that very question and concluded that many are living in their parents’ basements, playing video games.

The Key to Bridging the Digital Readiness Gap: Taking the Leap

New Edge  Though broadband availability is a key factor impacting adoption, it is far from the only one. Another critically important factor is each individual user’s degree of preparedness and comfort in utilizing digital tools.

A new study from the Pew Research Center suggests that approximately half of all Americans are not yet fully comfortable using the Internet for purposes of online learning.

In the study, entitled “Digital Readiness Gaps,” Pew uses cluster analysis to place survey respondents into one of five categories based on their views of using the Internet for online learning. Pew then places these categories into one of two larger groups: “relatively hesitant,” and “relatively more prepared.”

Based on their views of using the Internet for online learning, Pew places 52% of respondents into the “relatively hesitant” group. This includes “the unprepared” (14%)—those with relatively lower levels of tech adoption, who need help setting up new tech devices; “traditional learners” (5%)—active learners that have technology, but are not as likely to use the Internet for pursuing learning: and “the reluctant” (33%)—those with higher levels of digital skills than “the unprepared,” but low levels of awareness of new education technology concepts.

Pole Attachment Battle Brews in Tennessee

  A Nashville, Tenneesse council is set to vote tonight on an ordinance that would enable Google Fiber faster access to utility poles. The "One Touch Make Ready" (OTMR) provision would allow Google Fiber to manage all aspects of make-ready preparations on existing utility poles, a key component of the company's ability to string its fiber across Nashville and Davidson counties.

Unfortunately for Google, a competiing resolution is also on the council's agenda. Although a vote on the measure is slated to occur, it would have no binding impact because it is only a resolution, unlike the OTRM ordinance that is on the table.

 


This sample exists down the street from my house, and has been deployed this way for more than two years since the local electric utility upgraded its facilities. The craftmanship above street level is matched only the care dispensed by the property owner's gardener, who mulched the base of the pole while tending to the nearby trees. 

 

There May be 57 Channels and Nothing On*...But at Least It Will Be Crystal Clear

  Though there may not be much that can be done to improve the quality of television programming, consumers continue to embrace new technologies which will bring the same old dreck into their homes in razor sharp focus.

In fact, a newly-released report from Strategy Analytics’ Intelligent Home Group predicts that by 2020 250 million viewers worldwide will be watching television using high dynamic range (HDR) enabled TVs.

HDR is one of the most important components of Ultra HD TV, the new standard which is being introduced around the world. It improves TV pictures by increasing the range of colors and brightness. HDR programming has been launched by online video services such as Netflix and Amazon, and is expected to be introduced by leading broadcasters and pay TV companies over the next couple of years.

Strategy Analytics predicts that the sale of HDR-enabled sets will grow to 58 million units in 2020, and that the total number of households will exceed 100 million. In the U.S., HDR-enabled sets are expected to be in 25 percent of homes within four years.