Friday, January 26, 2007

Convergence Conversation at Intellect: Where Next for Broadband?

Jan 25th we had the Intellect convergence conversation IX on broadband, attended as always by a stellar group of participants. Here are some interesting thoughts that came out of it:

Where will demand for broadband come from?

  • even if it comes from just people wanting to view entertainment content, it's worth looking at as there are potential benefits to society from there
  • more direct benefits could be reaped by corporates driving more and more teleworking / home-working which has potentially a big environment and productivity impact.
  • a number of people may not even be aware that they are using the broadband / internet in some future applications - they may be using educational, telemedicine, entertainment devices, which unbeknownst to them, are using broadband data-pipes.

    (In fact the idea of "internet" and even "computer" may disappear, like the "motors" have disappeared, simply by becoming ubiquitous - as everything becomes connected and has a chip for computing ability)

An interesting rider on this is the view that one of the biggest barriers preventing further adoption, especially for older age groups is the computer. There is potentially a market for a pure browsing device with a hugely simplified set of instructions - which allow basic communication, browsing and other human functionalities with easy tools.

However, with all these expectations, there is still an act of faith required for businesses to invest today, into what would be clearly a huge investment into next generation access networks. Taking into account that this could take up to 10 years for a complete roll out, this clearly presents a need for somebody to drive the funding decision in order for the industry and the economy to ensure it doesn't miss out on the benefits of next generation access.

Clearly, once the network is in place, the ongoing revenues which are collected via metered or other forms of content access can be shared by content / service providers with the ISPs/ Telcos. However the immediate of upfront investment is one that the content industry cannot underwrite.

An additional trigger is on the horizon - the 2012 Olympics. Which also have other pressures, such as the need to broadcast it in hi-def. This means that there could be a spill over effect if terrestrial TV cannot handle the requirements, it may spill over to the next generation broadband providers to deliver the HD TV.

Creating a huge bipolarity is the other end of the adoption curve where some 40% continue to be affected, as I noted in yesterday’s post. Interestingly it was brought out that a large share of this population don’t have bank accounts, for example. So lack of broadband may no be the only socio-economic challenge here!

Although there is a clear case for the government to step into a potential market failure and fund part or all of this investment gap, it would be dangerous to confuse public with private funding, as it would skew the market and adversely impact a bunch of existing providers.

The role of wireless in next generation access is another real question but it really didn’t get addressed in the conversation as sadly, we ran out of time. But may be another Convergence Conversation on the role of Wireless in Next Generation Access will take care of that!


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