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Ultra-broadband to cause bandwidth divide

Adoption of ultra-high speed residential broadband will create bandwidth divide among world regions, as well as within countries in three to five years, says Gartner.
Written by Konrad Foo, Contributor on

Ultra-high speed residential broadband will create a bandwidth divide that will emerge in the next three to five years, with urbanized areas benefiting from faster download speeds while rural areas will not, Gartner said.

Supporting download speeds of 50 Mbps and above, ultra-high speed residential broadband will have a wide-ranging impact on consumers, including how they will experience video and communicate in the future.

At the same time, opportunities for application developers and service providers to improve and increase application offerings will open.

Fernando Elizalde, principal research analyst at Gartner, said the bandwidth divide will be among the different world regions, as well as within countries.

To avoid falling behind, governments in countries that lag behind in deploying ultra-broadband will be pressured to use public funds to upgrade their broadband infrastructure, he added.

Elizalde identified various factors contributing to the faster broadband's adoption in the next three to six years.

The need to acquire and retain customers is creating competitive pressure and is pushing service providers to use speed as a way of differentiating their services, he said. Markets with multiple carriers targeting the same customers or where there is strong telecom carrier versus cable television broadband competition will move fastest.

Rapid downloading and live streaming of movies and television shows will be key drivers encouraging consumers to pay more for ultra-high speed broadband Internet services. In addition, distribution of user-generated content through e-mail, social network sites and video-sharing Web sites will also increase demand for ultra-broadband.

Government initiatives around state-sponsored broadband projects and access to telemedicine require high levels of bandwidth use. These will also stimulate the need for ultra-broadband. From a long-term perspective, advanced forms of communications such as consumer telepresence and high-definition voice will require high-definition television quality video, resulting in high bandwidth usage as well.

Speed challenge
However, Elizalde warned of a number of factors likely to challenge adoption of a faster broadband.

Aside from the benefit of accessing video over the Internet, many consumers will not see a need to pay for higher bandwidth when there are no applications that currently require ultra-broadband, he said.

Uncertainty over whether carriers deploying ultra-high speed broadband technology will have to share the network and how they are going to carry it out, is delaying deployment of the technology, he added.

Further challenges include the rewiring of multi- and single-dwelling buildings which ultra-broadband requires, and the looming threat of alternative mobile broadband technologies such as long term evolution (LTE).

"Despite these challenges, ultra-broadband will happen and application developers should use the opportunity offered by the early adopter markets of Japan and South Korea to carry out live testing of new applications and innovations before it becomes mainstream globally," Elizalde said.

"Operators must position faster broadband speeds as a premium service to avoid commoditization of ultra-broadband and strike a balance between their need to charge more for faster broadband and consumer willingness to pay for the extra speed."

Based in Singapore, Konrad Foo is an intern with ZDNet Asia.

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