Heavy Reading Research

A Broadband 2.0 Manifesto

The era of Broadband 1.0 is rapidly drawing to a close. First-generation broadband was as important to the development of the Internet as the World Wide Web, but it has a wide range of limitations that frustrate users, inhibit the development and deployment of new services, and prevent the broadband Web from realizing its true potential – including its true revenue potential.

At our upcoming Future of Broadband 2008 event in New York City on May 13, we will be discussing what Broadband 2.0 should be, how it can be realized, and when it is coming. (We will also be continuing the debate at two major new events in India – in New Delhi on September 10, and in Mumbai on September 12. Stay tuned for more details.)

To start the discussion, here is a list – a manifesto, if you will – of the ten characteristics that we believe will define Broadband 2.0.

  1. Abundant bandwidth: 100 Mbit/s (with 1 Gbit/s later) is the target, and all service providers need a plan to get there, at the very most, within a decade – an objective that requires a long-term commitment to an all-fiber wireline network and/or a 4G wireless rollout.

  2. A two-way highway: Most broadband uplinks are not broadband. A typical uplink provides only one tenth of the downstream bandwidth, and this is a major barrier to the more active engagement of users and to greater creativity in applications development. Broadband 2.0 should be symmetric wherever possible.

  3. Always available: Broadband 1.0 is "always on" – a characteristic that drove its rapid uptake. Broadband 2.0 – and in particular, the increasingly essential services that run on it – must be always available if it is to achieve its full potential. That is not the case today.

  4. Wireless and wireline: New broadband wireless technologies, such as HSPA, WiMax, and LTE, are generating flat-rate packages that are blurring the distinction between wired and wireless broadband. However, wireless cannot do everything. Users will choose service providers that can offer convenient, appropriate, and ubiquitous access wherever they are.

  5. Open access: Open access is a key theme (perhaps the key theme) in Broadband 2.0, and progressive service providers (and regulators) will open their networks and resources as far as they feasibly can, creating the basis for new and more fruitful partnerships with Web-based applications providers.

  6. The channel for video: Video entertainment is still largely delivered via conventional channels, but Broadband 2.0 could and should quickly become a far more flexible means of delivering any kind of video (including user-generated and over-the-top video) to end users – rendering other channels increasingly obsolete.

  7. A new communications medium: Communications is far from converged today, but users will choose more integrated services if they are easy to use. The aim is communications via a single address book and a single interface, with one or many third parties, by any and all available means – email, IM, telephony and video telephony, wireless, wireline, etc.

  8. Safe and secure: Survey after survey – including Heavy Reading surveys – have shown that fears about viruses, identity theft, and related concerns are a continuing big barrier to Internet usage, especially among late adopters. An absolute commitment by service providers to "five-nines" security is therefore a must in Broadband 2.0.

  9. Plug and play: Especially in the home, broadband is still far from plug and play, and this is a barrier to more creative relationships between telecom and consumer electronics. Getting broadband connectivity needs to be as easy as flicking a switch.

  10. Policy-enabled: Policy control and management tools such as deep packet inspection remain controversial, especially with net-neutrality advocates, but while there is room for argument about how policy is used, there is no doubt that it will be required to meet many of the above objectives.

Not everyone will agree with everything on this list. Some of the elements are difficult to achieve simultaneously – for example, creating the most open possible environment while ensuring that networks are safe, secure, and always available. But that must be the goal. The commercial Internet and its broadband support network is barely a decade old, and has far to go. And for those providing the services, the opportunities are vast.

– Graham Finnie, Chief Analyst, Heavy Reading

Interested in learning more on this topic? Then come to The Future of Broadband 2008, a conference that will provide a definitive view of the trends that will shape broadband services through 2010 and beyond into the next decade. To be staged in New York City, May 13, admission is free for attendees meeting our prequalification criteria. For more information, or to register, click here.

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