Huawei Ultra Broadband Forum 2018

Poll: Mobile Broadband Won't Catch Fixed

Who needs fiber? Swedish equipment giant Ericsson has said that 5G could be 50 times as fast as 4G, which would surely be enough to support any manner of services and sound the death knell for fixed.

And if that's the case, then all that funding the public and private sectors are channeling into fiber rollout could be redirected into more cost-effective mobile technologies that are far less disruptive to install.

Well, the Light Reading community is not convinced by this vision of mobile nirvana. Asked whether 4G and 5G services will kill the business case for mass market fixed broadband, just 9% of respondents agreed that everything will eventually run over wireless connections to end user devices.

Perhaps these voters have been listening to Matt Beal, Vodafone's head of technical architecture, who reckons customers in the future will have a hard time distinguishing between fixed and mobile technologies on the basis of speed -- begging the question, why invest in fixed? (See The Perennial Need for Speed.)

Or they might have been talking to Philip Marnick, the group director of spectrum for UK regulatory authority Ofcom, who has a similarly rosy view on mobile's ability to challenge fixed. "There have been some developments recently in the UK where people are finding that wireless is faster than fiber," he told attendees at the Ultra-Broadband Forum in London in September. "The consumer doesn't see the difference between fixed and wireless."

Fixed has always been a 'moving target,' though, and an overwhelming 82% of poll respondents think it will remain so, agreeing that fixed broadband will always be able to deliver greater bandwidth. With operators now talking about providing connection speeds of up to 1 Gbit/s on their fixed networks, it's clear that fiber has already advanced a long way in just a few years, and it would be a surprise if further leaps didn't happen in future.

As Light Reading has previously surmised, whether mobile really can supplant fixed depends largely on service innovation. Customers watching HD TV might have a better experience using the 5G technology that Ericsson has in mind than many of today's fiber-based alternatives. And if we're still watching the same old HD TV years from now, why not make use of superfast mobile instead of multi-gigabit-fast (but eye-wateringly expensive) fixed?

Like network technologies, however, services and applications evolve, becoming more advanced and more bandwidth-hungry in the process. Japan wants to screen the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in 8K TV, offering four times the resolution of the 4K standard that is now on its way. Even fiber developers may have difficulty keeping up with the pace of change.

— Iain Morris, Site Editor, Ultra-Broadband

Susan Fourtané 10/10/2014 | 6:58:28 AM
Fixed broadband is walking its way to joining dial-up Iain, 

Well, well. I have consistently belonged to the minory all my life and it seems it will never change. :D In fact, I like it. It's no secret I was one of the few voters in the poll in favor to 4G and 5G mobile leaving fixed on its merry way to join dial-up. (Or, is someone still using that?) 

I like your follow-up to the poll because it reasures my position in favor to mobile broadband. I truly believe in what Swedish Ericsson has said; they always deliver. 

So, if today I am happy with my 4G I can only imagine how it will be with 5G being 50 times as fast as 4G. :)

"And if that's the case, then all that funding the public and private sectors are channeling into fiber rollout could be redirected into more cost-effective mobile technologies that are far less disruptive to install."

Yes, I believe that would be a good move. Also, I agree with Vodafone's Matt Beal and with Philip Marnick and their statement that it will become even harder than it is today to tell the difference between fixed and mobile technologies on the bases of speed.

I would not invest a penny in fixed. In fact, I am not doing it already since I gave up my fixed. I believe in and support mobile broadband. You'll see; time will tell. 

MarkC73 10/8/2014 | 3:04:30 PM
Re: What about Latency? First off I agree with you, but it's not, not being addressed, it's just another topic.  To your point though we can't have a good comparison without out the including speed and latency, on top of that, you want to consider reliability, range and mobility as well.  I guess it's easier to stay focused talking about one thing at a time.

I used to think (10 yrs ago) that wireless would never suit my needs, as gaming and other things need or perform better with low latency, but the technology is catching up.  Now, it's definitely not better, but it's starting to get comparable.  They say with 4G the delay can be at least 20ms for the eNodeB to get the data from your device.  But I'm not a wireless guy so that's just what I've read.

Most of the content I go to is out of state, so I did a rudimentary ping/traceroute to a location that was equi-distant for T-Mobile and my ISP.  The difference was about  83ms.  Now, there's a lot of factors involved so it's not that 4G LTE is 83 ms slower, but just a real-world 'to the order of'.  I tried to get ping times off of the first layer 3 gateways from my phone but their being filtered 4 hops deep and when I do get some ping times they are private addresses so I can't approximate where they are physically without some inside knowledge, the first public IPs I get are on the west coast so that's what I used.

The other thing (for home wifi) is that if you have close neighbors or lots of interference, you can have reliability issues and those can be annoying for applications that are sensitive to those things.

So for streaming, mobility, web surfing, I'll use my wireless devices.  But you'll see my desktop still wired to my router, even though I don't game too much these days.


EDIT: sorry I realized after the fact that I switch gears from 4G to wifi without notice ;); though 4G can have reliability issues as well for data, I consider them different from the kind of stuff you run into with wifi.
go8971236 10/8/2014 | 9:52:33 AM
What about Latency? Well the question is about the last mile. As people have posted, the mid mile in mobile backhaul is fixed.

But having a debate about raw speed without addressing latency is meaningless. User experience is as much driven by latency as bandwidth above a few Mbits. And that where mobile last miles with newer generations of LTE will win. Lower bandwidth maybe ( albeit expect a 30-50x increase by 2020) but probably lower latency than fixed. Certainly than DSL. Overall QoE for teh end-user could be indistinguishable
iainmorris 10/8/2014 | 6:48:12 AM
Re: Who Needs Fiber? No doubt fixed will be preferable to microwave for backhaul with rising demand for 4G services etc., as you suggest. We had a poll on this topic too, with respondents coming out heavily in favour of using optical fiber for mobile backhaul.
briandnewby 10/7/2014 | 3:50:17 PM
Re: Who Needs Fiber? The processor note made me wonder if there just has to be some new technology to catapult data speeds.

What if, and just talking out of my non-knowing head here, there was a way to throttle or capture data speed on the device?  In my nutty idea, let's say my device had such a fast processor or internal memory that it essentially ate up information transmitted when there were pockets of capacity, nursing it slowly back to me on my device.

I can't actually immediately come up with an illustration of why this would be good, but I'm sure I can if I ponder this over time.

The problem is, we consume data so fast that I can't imagine cases where data comes at me faster than I can use it.  Streaming, no.  Downloads that begin streaming, maybe--maybe there is a burst of 10 seconds where half of my movie downloads and the rest trickles in, unbeknown to me because I'm watching at a trickle.

All to say, the boost that brings comparable speeds may not be spectrum, but, rather, a new invention.
MarkC73 10/7/2014 | 1:28:12 PM
Who Needs Fiber? Haha, what do you think backhauls that data from the tower and soon more likely small cells and femto cells, and what saves us from those data caps?  Yup the wireless carriers protect their ARPU/ROI by charging you per bit, while fixed is in a pricing battle that is pushing the 'dumb pipe' to be cheaper and cheaper (per bit).

But because of this (where the money is), I agree that the focus is all about wireless and its services.  Technology as far as delivery is going gangbusters with no signs of stopping in the near future.  As you alluded to, it will be a combination of access services that the consumer will get to choose from (hopefully!).

I used to think that all media would go wireless, but since the we seemed to get charged for mass consumption, I now subscribe to the thought that wireless will be all about mobility accessibility and on demand, while fixed will be all about off-load both carrier and consumer.  Services will be pushed to whatever and however you want.

Last thought ... now that the access technology has caught up nicely, its time to make the internet infrstructure faster so we can consume.  I'm also looking for processor power first in my mobile devices before anything else.
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