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Can broadband keep up with the multi-screen family?

BBWF 2017

The Broadband World Forum 2017 event opened with a panel discussion on the readiness of fixed line infrastructure to meet future challenges.

As ever, especially on the consumer side, broadband connectivity challenges focus largely on the ‘last mile’. Most developed countries are doing a decent job of installing a fibre backbone, but extending that all the way to the home – FTTH – is another matter entirely. BBWF is typically the place where technologies like G.fast get their annual moment in the spotlight as telcos fret over sating our voracious appetite for lovely data.

Gary McLaren, CTO of the Hong Kong Broadband Network, raised an interesting point in relation to Hong Kong, but which can probably be applied to much of the rest of the world too. One of the things really driving demand for bandwidth isn’t just OTT video, or even higher resolutions, but the fact the people increasingly consume that video on personal screens.

This is certainly true of the Telecoms.com household, where Mrs Telecoms.com and the little Telecoms.coms each get to satisfy their unique, and often highly questionable, viewing tastes via tablets or whatever. The result is often four or more separate video streams being demanded of the network.

Apparently in Hong Kong it’s not uncommon for families, even when sat around the same dinner table, to still be in their own little televisual worlds. We draw the line at that at the Telecoms.com dining table but are conscious of swimming against the cultural current. What happened to the good old days when we all sat together and watched the same screen without interacting with each other eh? It’s shocking what the world is coming to, we’ll be forgetting how to talk next, you mark my words.

Another issue this discussion raised was the wifi router as a significant broadband customer pain-point. With all these video streams flying about the place a dodgy router can seriously mess with the user experience. It’s all very well having gigabit speed coming into the house but if it struggles to make that final journey to the device, the punter will still be unhappy and will probably blame their CSP.

Panel moderator Ronan Kelly of Adtran, and President of the FTTH Council Europe, noted that until a year or two ago CSPs figured the router was the customer’s problem, since they’d done their bit and served the home with lashings of juicy bandwidth. But now they’ve realised it’s in their interests to ensure the entire connectivity experience is as satisfying as possible so they’re taking the whole router and managed wifi issue a bit more seriously.

We never really got round to answering the stated premise of the panel: will we be ready for 2020? But it was an interesting chat nonetheless and reminded us that for all the talk of G.fast, FTTx and FWA, the ultimate aim is to provide an experience so good that end-users don’t even need to think about their broadband provider, let alone moan about them.

BBWF 2020 panel


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