Anybody familiar with the underlying trends in the communications business, and who looks at the business dispassionately, sooner or later has to wonder what the future of the fixed network actually will be. That is not to say the fixed network has no obvious role.
Bandwidth, and affordable bandwidth, is the chief advantage a fixed network has, and always will have, over a mobile or wireless network. But that isn’t a terribly comforting thought for a fixed network executive, or any of the ecosystem partners. For saying “bandwidth is the enduring value” is tantamount to saying that “dumb pipe” is the enduring value.
No other network–satellite, fixed wireless or mobile–can claim to match the theoretical bandwidth of an optical fiber network. And no other network can match the price-performance of a fixed network at very-high speeds. You don’t hear proponents talking about mass deployment of gigabit per second wireless or satellite networks, for example, because it is not technologically or economically possible.
Some think that could change in some decades, but for the moment fixed networks have the strategic advantage.
Some of us would argue that growing use of Wi-Fi-supported devices such as tablets and smart phones will enhance the value proposition for fixed networks.
The increase in number of devices using the home networks is one reason why “median monthly usage” (half of consumers use more, half use less) on North America’s fixed access networks has increased from 10.3 GB to 16.8 GB in the second half of 2012, and also why mobile bandwidth consumption, at least in North America, has been relatively restrained.