Recent articles on municipal Wi-Fi show that we're entering a new phase in the hype cycle for wireless broadband. We are leaving the "peak of inflated expectations" and are entering the "trough of disillusionment". No one should be surprised. Physics still rules and mobility comes with a price. Wireless broadband will be as important to broadband as cellular telephony was to landline service. But nothing comes for free.
We have been covering the application of broadband and wireless technologies to home healthcare for four years. Technology to address "Healthcare Unbound" keeps getting more capable and less expensive. Groups such as the Continua Health Alliance are fostering development of health care standards, system interoperability, and device connectivity. But technology is not the limiting factor in Healthcare Unbound -- business models and reimbursement are. Changing these is proving to be slow and painful.
There's been lots of hype about the upcoming auction of 700 MHz spectrum. The recent WCA conference was a great opportunity to get up to speed. Following the conference there was more public jockeying, with Google in the spotlight. The FCC is scheduled to make its decisions just after this newsletter went to press. We think those who had been enthusiastic about the potential of the 700 MHz band for personal broadband will be disappointed. There's too little spectrum, of the wrong kind, in too small blocks, fragmented into small geographical areas, with rules that favor the existing wireless carriers to warehouse it for future voice services.
We had always been skeptical that BPL could be used to provide broadband service in rural areas, since the deployment costs seemed very high when the population density is low. Conversations with two innovative companies, and a visit to rural Virginia, convinced us that there's hope for people in unserved and underserved markets.
"Wildblue Country"--Broadband for The Rural Lifestyle (BBHR 9/9/2006)
How fast does broadband need to be? Our visit with satellite broadband provider WildBlue, followed by a visit with our son who recently installed the service, helped provide the answer: "a lot faster than you used to have." Wildblue targets the unserved and underserved markets that cable and DSL don't reach. It may be a niche market, but a target market of 12-15 million homes and offices isn't too shabby.
You've heard it before: the healthcare system worldwide is facing a crisis. At a symposium in Boston on "The Accelerating Use of Communication Technology in Healthcare" there were two pieces of good news. A committed core of thought leaders from the medical community, corporations and governments is starting to act as a catalyst for experimentation and change. And the health care impacts and after-effects of Hurricane Katrina may act as a rallying cry to speed attention to this critical problem, at least in the US.
Imagine what it's like to be a city mayor. Not only do you have constituents knocking on your door, you also have this new world of broadband that some people think should be on your agenda. Broadband Properties Magazine asked us to help their readers, especially municipal officials, understand the basics of broadband access technologies, how well they work and why one might fit a particular set of needs better than another.
CES 2005--"Broadband on Steroids": New Wireless Networking Technologies (BBHR 1/25/2005)
Imagine the challenge of trying to keep two CEOs, a promoter Group Chair and a Chief at the FCC each to their allotted time slots. At CES, that was Dave's challenge in a session he organized and moderated on "Emerging Technologies". Topics included new wireless networking technologies for MANs, LANs and PANs plus some views from a long time Chief at the FCC .
The broadband wireless industry is again rising from the depths. This time it may be for keeps. Attendees at the most recent WCA 2004 show included many of "the big boys" and FCC Commissioners and staff made their presence and interest widely apparent. Within a group previously focused on fixed broadband wireless, changes from earlier shows included the huge momentum around WiMAX and the promise of mobility.
Talks by FCC Chairman Michael Powell and wireless pioneer Craig McCaw
FCC Commissioners and senior FCC staff talking about expanding spectrum for wireless
The current status of WiMAX and other fixed and mobile wireless technologies
The emergence of "broadband anywhere" and "portable broadband"
The future of VoIP depends on support for both new "SIP addresses" and traditional telephone numbers. While SIP addresses work well on PCs, it's much easier to remember phone numbers and enter them on phone keyboards. ENUM bridges the gap by translating any phone number to a SIP address.
During our trip to Spain, we met with the incumbent and several aspiring broadband competitors. Despite differences between countries, we found many common themes across borders, including the move to "all IP," innovations in wireless and PLC technologies, and public policy to spur broadband competition. Muchas gracias to our readers in Spain for sharing their insights with us.
"Fulfilling the Promise" Industry Perspective at Broadband Home Fall 2001 (BBHR 11/5/2001)
Observing that residential broadband promises to be a bright spot amid all the doom and gloom, we reminded everyone that it's happening all over the world. We strongly believe that future broadband penetration will match PC and Internet penetration today. Its impact on businesses and consumers will be profound and it will represent a huge opportunity for some companies and a huge challenge for others.
"The Broadband Rorschach Test" Industry Perspective at Broadband Home Europe Summit 2001 (PowerPoint (.5M))
In our May 2001 survey of global broadband in Amsterdam, we commented on the emergence of "cozy duopolies" between telephone companies and cable operators. See the four slides beginning at slide 22.
Since our article in BBHR 3/18/2001, several developments in the US have made our cautionary note even more appropriate.
Making the Broadband Home a Reality--Keep an Eye On Washington (BBHR 3/18/2001)
Everyone in the Broadband Home industry depends on broadband access becoming available to most homes at a price the family is willing to pay. We believe that widespread installation of broadband will happen only by encouraging competition for the last mile.
Hong Kong and Asia/Pacific: Business, Buying and Broadband (BBHR 12/3/2000)
Visits with OFTA - the telecommunications regulator - and others