In barely more than a decade, broadband has spread across the world with ever increasing speeds, and now boasts well over half a billion fixed subscribers. This is a powerful demonstration of its capabilities, however there is much more to be done in order to ensure everybody has access to high quality broadband services. Mapping is key to delivering this, says Oliver Johnson, CEO of Point Topic, who is set to deliver a speech on the issue at ITU Telecom World tomorrow.
As more markets gain faster broadband and are able to make it available to more of their population, governments and regulators start to face a different set of challenges. They need to consider how much needs to be spent and where in order to get the maximum percentage of the population and businesses online. Mapping is an essential element in achieving this and the USA has led the way in implementing a coherent response to this increasing need according to Johnson.
The USA allocated $350 million dollars to produce a detailed map of what speeds, suppliers and technologies are available where, with updates over the next five years, he said. This has already contributed to the discussion as to where there are issues and has highlighted areas of success and relative failure. Importantly, it has done it in an accessible and transparent way.
However it is unlikely that other countries would want to match this level of expenditure, particularly in the current climate. Johnson explains: You can provide information much more cost effectively. If you can get the right inputs then instead of the census approach that the US took, which is where they spent most of the money, you can build very effective models that mean the benefits of a comprehensive coverage and technology map can be offered for far less expenditure.
Point Topic has recently carried out just such a project for the European Space Agency (ESA).
In order to establish the areas of Europe that wont be reached by fixed broadband, and despite the recent announcement of infrastructure stimulus funds which will help, there will be large areas that will still be outside the fixed footprint. We undertook a research and modelling programme which offers a decent approximation of where the challenges will be, says Johnson.
To generate the estimates Point Topic mapped current and future deployments, factored in affordability, education and other socio-economic and infrastructure metrics, and projected the commercial spread of fixed broadband. Importantly it does not make an allowance for recently announced and future EU and country government subsidies or central funding; effectively this is what would happen if the EU27 went on as they are going today.
Fixed superfast broadband is the most straightforward way of delivering high speed internet services but by no means the only way. Satellite, and to an extent other wireless technologies, will have a significant contribution to make to coverage in the EU and given the extent of the challenge they are going to be essential in meeting even the most basic objectives driving deployment in Europe, says Johnson.