Vodafone recently released their “Making broadband accessible to all” report, arguing that wireless access makes more sense than rolling out fibre in emerging economies.
The findings are based on the higher cost of fibre network deployment due largely to lower dwelling densities and lower achievable revenue per user.
“In most emerging markets the diffusion of broadband to the mass market will only be possible through wireless access networks,” the report states.
NGN wireless networks will provide a cost effective alternative for bandwidth of sufficient performance to watch good quality standard definition streamed video such as YouTube (most of the time), enable acceptable current technology video conferencing, to provide a good, responsive web-browsing experience and support e-mail services.
The following table illustrates how the various access technologies compare on speed and usability.
“While fibre access would enable greater throughput up to 100 Mbps using current technologies, much of this throughput is only needed for very high demand applications such as on-demand HD IPTV – almost all current consumer and business services can be provided through wireless access,” the report states.
The paper further finds that fibre access investment will likely be limited to specific areas that are commercially viable, such as business districts, institutions, hospitals, and large companies.
“Mass-market deployment of fibre (i.e. fibre to every household) will not be commercially viable,” the report states.
From the table above it is clear that it makes more sense to deploy wireless networks to achieve fast and affordable Internet access, but to do this, sufficient spectrum is needed.
Here the report recommends that regulators should focus on consumer welfare when making spectrum available for service providers, as the availability of spectrum will drive technology innovations and better coverage for the growing demand for mobile broadband services.
“Tapping spectrum as a source of short-term government revenue costs the economy billions more in lost economic value,” states the report.
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