Just how fast does the connectivity industry move? I’ve been commentating on the technology methods of Fibre, Fixed Wireless and Satellite for some time now, tracking their progress on an annual basis. If you have missed these articles, you can see 2017 here and 2018 here.
The world is going wireless! Once upon a time you would get home and plug the laptop in with your blue cable, remember those days? A long time ago, WiFi became standard issue and these days our devices automatically connect to the WiFi networks and away we go. We call this the ‘last ten metres’, and wireless has won this game. More and more we are now seeing that ‘the last mile’ is going wireless. In the future, we will ‘cut the cord’ and our homes and offices will have fewer cabled connections and we’ll rely on wireless infrastructure to bring the internet in to the local area network. 5G will accelerate this, however, its footprint is going to be very small for a very long time due to the short-distance nature of the technology. For those in regional and remote areas, current 5G technologies won’t really work, but that is a topic for another day and traditional fixed wireless technologies will reign supreme.
What’s changed in the last 12 months?
Fibre – Investment in fibre rollouts has continued, although it is primarily focussed in metro areas. Competition at the retail level has increased, which has brought the retail prices of backhaul services down, however, competition at the wholesale level from the fibre owners has not increased and wholesale prices are largely unchanged in a year. This has resulted in operators needing to manage their contention ratios and optimise their networks. This is good news for the consumer in the near term, it does however make it more difficult for smaller operators to compete with the larger ones, which in turn is bad for competition in the longer term. There has however been substantial investment in inter-continental sub-sea cables connections, which is improving the quality of services between countries and also improving competition.
Fixed Wireless – in the last year we have seen advancements in LTE technologies and also the availability of the technology to be used in commercial applications. MarchNet have been installing our own private LTE networks to improve services in non-line of sight applications.
The next generation of wireless products (Wave 2/802.11AC) is industry standard now and is bringing increased speed and reliability with it. Wireless for backhaul is more accessible than it ever has been and continues to improve. Faster speeds are being achieved and importantly, we’re seeing higher power equipment become available which results in greater reliability without increasing antenna sizes. This makes the biggest impact in remote and regional applications, where long distance wireless links are required to connect businesses to fibre backhaul networks.
Satellite – As I mentioned last year, satellite costs had fallen, but they have plateaued somewhat since then. Speeds remain constrained when compared to terrestrial networks and data limitations are still high. Low Earth Orbit Satellite trials are gaining momentum and I am becoming increasingly confident that this method of technology delivery is going to bring increased functionality to low-bandwidth and IoT type devices, but they are still a little way off. Certainly a space to keep an eye on.
We’ve seen a year of consolidation and delivering on the promises of yesterday, however, I think we are on the cusp of a number of disruptive technologies which will be occurring over the next 5 years. We’ve been busy attending lots of technology conferences all over the world to ensure we stay at the forefront of the market and continue to improve our suite of offerings. If you want to look at what is the best method of connecting your site, please reach out, we love a challenge!