Monday, September 15, 2008

Wired For Tommorrow?

Ars Technica gave us two interesting broadband articles last week. First, we had the research findings from the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford and the University of Oviedo's Department of Applied Economics. The research looked at 42 countries and their ability to exploit and benefit from next-generation web applications and services.

They found that over 50% of the 42 countries delivered a consistent service to support common web applications that were available today. However they stated that only Japan was "future-ready" for what is expected within the next 3 to 5 years. So it’s interesting to note what services these researchers envisage, these include; visual networking, HD video streaming, "consumer telepresence," and large file-sharing. They estimate that these will require a download speeds of around 11.25Mbps and an upload of 5Mbps. Countries that don't even qualify for today's needs include the UK, Spain, Canada, and Australia, with Mexico, China, and India at the very bottom of the list.

Saïd Business School researcher Alastair Nicholson is quoted as, "average download speeds are adequate for web browsing, e-mail and basic video downloading and streaming, but we are seeing more interactive applications, more user-generated content being uploaded and shared, and an increasing amount of high-quality video services becoming available."

The second article related to a UK government commissioned a study of the status and future of next-generation broadband technology in Britain, and was lead authored by Francesco Caio. The report found no need for significant government intervention to ensure access to higher speed broadband connections and proposes a monitoring of progress against targets. The report notes that over 99 % of local telephone exchanges are now wired for DSL, 80% of those households that have a PC also have broadband and time spent online high, and online advertising revenues as a percentage of total ads are significantly higher than in others, including the US.

Importantly, the report believes if upgraded, the existing infrastructure can support the increased broadband usage for the next 10 years. However the report notes that Virgin Media and BT are already investing in DOCSIS 3.0 and fibre rollouts and says that these next-generation technologies will be critical if the UK's Internet economy is to be sustained.

It’s interesting to ask who is responsible for the infrastructure and is it just down to investment and service provider, or is there a government role? Caio believes government should set minimal standards of access and service, such as: ensuring any wiring is open to all on a 'must carry, must connect' rule, ensure that traffic reduction management measures are visible to users, so that they can evaluate the true level of service they are receiving, coordinate the wiring efforts with other infrastructure work that involves digging up roads in order to lower the cost and release radio spectrum to foster growth.

So we have two reports two different views on where we are today but one shared view that investment is required. The interesting observation is what the role we expect everyone to play is and the openness of the resulting investment. If we accept that governments have a role to play, should that be at a local level, federal, state or inter state level?

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