Bridging the Digital Divide: Part 3

In the third installment of this four-part sponsored series, we look at some more key highlights from a new Heavy Reading study about the broadband industry's plans for closing the Digital Divide.

Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

January 18, 2023

4 Min Read
Bridging the Digital Divide: Part 3

How do telcos, cable operators, fiber providers, wireless operators, utilities, municipalities and other broadband players aim to close the Digital Divide? What kinds of networks are operators and vendors looking to build, adapt and/or expand? How much are they planning to leverage public subsidies? What are the biggest challenges they face in wiring unserved regions, and how can they meet these challenges?

Seeking to address these and other related issues, Heavy Reading teamed up with four leading tech suppliers – Corning, DZS, Radisys and Vantiva – to conduct a comprehensive study about ways to bridge the Digital Divide. In this series of four sponsored blog posts, we present key study highlights, analyze the findings and discuss the implications. We also draw some conclusions about what the findings mean for the overall drive to close the Digital Divide around the world.

Scalability of current platform

One area that the Heavy Reading survey covered is the critical scaling question. We asked service providers whether their current architecture allows them to scale their operations on a single platform. Most of the responses were favorable, if guardedly so. Nearly one-half of the respondents (48%) declared that their architecture was potentially scalable, while another 41% said it definitely was. Only 11% said no, as pictured in the figure below.

That seems like good news for service providers because it indicates that most believe they will be able to scale up on a single platform to meet the needs of the Multi-Gigabit Age. In other words, most providers do not think they will need to replace their current architecture with a new one in the foreseeable future.

Figure 1: (Source: Heavy Reading) (Source: Heavy Reading)

Concentration of Digital Divide in rural areas

From there, the study pivoted to the central Digital Divide issue. Specifically, the survey asked operators how much of the Digital Divide problem is concentrated in the rural regions they cover.

Surprisingly, it turns out to be less than one might expect. More than one-half of survey participants (56%) said that rural areas accounted for no more than 25% of the Digital Divide issue in their regions, with 14% saying it accounted for less than 10%.

On the other hand, 44% of respondents said that rural regions accounted for more than one-quarter of their Digital Divide issues. And more than one-sixth of respondents (17%) said over one-half of their Digital Divide challenges came from rural areas, as shown in the figure below.

Figure 2: (Source: Heavy Reading) (Source: Heavy Reading)

Interest in using new optical edge technology

The survey next asked operators about their interest in using new optical edge technology to upgrade the middle-mile networks in their regions. In this case, the results were less surprising, as most operators showed strong enthusiasm for leveraging the latest optical edge advances.

Indeed, as depicted in the figure below, nearly two-thirds of study participants (65%) indicated that their organization is interested in upgrading their middle-mile networks with new optical technology. Further, only 10% said they were not interested, with the remaining 25% responding that they did not know yet.

Thus, service providers are looking for ways to upgrade their middle-mile networks to handle the ever growing traffic loads that they are carrying. And providers are intrigued about leveraging new optical edge technology to carry out that task.

Figure 3: (Source: Heavy Reading) (Source: Heavy Reading)

How broadband access vendors can provide better support

What's the role of vendor support for last-mile broadband infrastructure projects to close the Digital Divide? The Heavy Reading study asked operators how broadband access vendors can provide greater support for broadband builds. Respondents could choose as many as five different options from the list.

Not all that surprisingly, the lead choice that emerged was more competitively priced hardware. A solid two-thirds of operators (67%) picked that method as a critical way to provide them with better support.

But all the other options scored highly as well, as shown in the figure below. For example, more than one-half of respondents (56%) chose a better software platform for network monitoring administration, and the same percentage picked faster development cycles for new products and product updates.

So, operators have a very good idea of the kind of vendor support they could use for carrying out last-mile broadband projects. Now the big question is: How well can suppliers meet those expectations?

Figure 4: (Source: Heavy Reading) (Source: Heavy Reading)

That wraps up this third post in this blog series. For a free copy of Bridging the Digital Divide, the Heavy Reading white paper detailing all the study results, please click here.

This blog is sponsored by Corning.

About the Author(s)

Alan Breznick

Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

Alan Breznick is a business editor and research analyst who has tracked the cable, broadband and video markets like an over-bred bloodhound for more than 20 years.

As a senior analyst at Light Reading's research arm, Heavy Reading, for six years, Alan authored numerous reports, columns, white papers and case studies, moderated dozens of webinars, and organized and hosted more than 15 -- count 'em --regional conferences on cable, broadband and IPTV technology topics. And all this while maintaining a summer job as an ostrich wrangler.

Before that, he was the founding editor of Light Reading Cable, transforming a monthly newsletter into a daily website. Prior to joining Light Reading, Alan was a broadband analyst for Kinetic Strategies and a contributing analyst for One Touch Intelligence.

He is based in the Toronto area, though is New York born and bred. Just ask, and he will take you on a power-walking tour of Manhattan, pointing out the tourist hotspots and the places that make up his personal timeline: The bench where he smoked his first pipe; the alley where he won his first fist fight. That kind of thing.

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