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