This past week I authored an article regarding fixed wireless broadband challenging wireline operators to work outside their comfort zone through OSP Magazine). The reality is that fixed wireless broadband (FWBB) is a complimentary technology that allows wireline operators to economically (i.e., profitably) provide broadband access to the unconnected (and under connected) that are economically or physically out of reach of the last DSLAM or fiber drop. 

We also had the opportunity to host one of Cambium’s premier European network operators this week at our headquarters in Rolling Meadows. The operator epitomizes a traditionalist stretching their comfort zone. 

At present they have approximately:

– 170,000 residential customers

– 5,000 enterprise customers

– Technology tool kit:

– Approximately 70% served by a DOCSIS network,

– 12% by GPON,

– The balance with a fixed wireless broadband network. 

All three networks continue to grow with the FWBB network expected to increase by 14,000 net new subscribers by 2018. Those 14,000 net new subscribers would not receive broadband access if it were not for the technical and economic attributes of FWBB – they would remain unconnected or under connected. Keep in mind, the network operator is not undertaking the effort out of generosity – they are making a fair and reasonable return on their investment for their shareholders that would otherwise not be possible. Co-mingling technologies has allowed this operator to provide an array of services, at various price points, to virtually every residential and enterprise address within their geographic operating area – how does your comfort zone compare?

We have come a long way since the invention of wireline communications on January 11 1838 when Samuel Morse sent the first telegraph. By 1858 telegraph networks bridged the World with “high capacity real time” communication. There have been notable milestones in the intervening 155 years including the introduction of voice, the transition to switched traffic rather than linear networks, the relatively recent transition from circuit to packet, and dramatic growth of fiber from core transport to access. Copper and fiber “wired networks”; including digital subscriber line (DSL), Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS) Passive Optical Network (PON); remain the preferred medium and architecture for high capacity broadband networks and are in the Comfort Zone for “wireline” operators. 

Wireline operators are not the only operators that need to stretch their comfort zone. FWBB networks have long been the domain of Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISP) and their focus has been almost exclusively residential customers and the provisioning of basic access to the “Internet”. WISPs need to stretch their comfort zone and consider offering VoIP services, 802.11 indoor access as an end-to-end offering, over-the-top high definition video delivery, expanding the clientele to include enterprise and industrial customers; and other value added services on top of that resilient, high-capacity, and highly reliable wireless broadband network they have built. More to come on that topic in future articles!

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