Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Telecom Triple Play - How Will We Get There?

The next big push in telecom looks to be the triple play of data, voice, and video. The question is how will this be delivered to the end users.

DSL tops out at 24 Mbps today, but that is limited to a very short copper run. Certainly overkill for data and voice, but will this be sufficient for IP-TV services? Add to that the issue of aggregation, and there are some real choke points. Fiber to the node and then a short copper run expands the number of homes reached, but will it cost effectively provide the full bandwidth back to the core?

Fiber to the premise is another proposed solution. The issue here is again cost. Maybe a good boring robot is the solution to provide low cost fiber to any point. Something capable of non-disruptive tunneling, avoiding both existing buried utilities and natural hazards, and perhaps GPS guided.

Then again, perhaps the solution is to restate the problem. How can a carrier deliver a high rate digital data stream to a high number of end points, where the data stream is end point specific and on demand, and the path is limited to currently existing or easily established infrastructure? Is TCP/IP the best protocol to use, or is it time to rethink the whole thing? Where should content sources be placed to optimize a trade off between cost and performance?

Doing wireless end point access raises a whole new set of constraints to the problem. Higher frequencies increase capacity, but at the cost of range and ability to pass through obstacles. Mobility increases the complexity of the challenge, as the broadcast point shifts as the end point moves.

Of course these issues will be resolved in some fashion. After all, at one point broadcast television was limited to 13 channels of content with a high degree of cross talk errors, and copper facilities meant analog and a maximum throughput of 19.2 Kbps for those with deep pockets.

What do you see as the most likely solution? Where will we be in 5 years?

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