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An Organized Broadband System at the State Level

WASHINGTON, April 8, 2010 – The elements of an organized broadband system at the state level will vary depending upon geographic and economic characteristics. Urban and more populous areas will require middle-mile infrastructure to serve larger institutions, while existing last mile coverage may be adequate. Secondary and rural markets may require less extensive institutional capacity, while last mile coverage remains unacceptable.

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WASHINGTON, April 8, 2010 – The elements of an organized broadband system at the state level will vary depending upon geographic and economic characteristics. Urban and more populous areas will require middle-mile infrastructure to serve larger institutions, while existing last mile coverage may be adequate. Secondary and rural markets may require less extensive institutional capacity, while last mile coverage remains unacceptable.

The Federal BTOP and BIP funding programs, the FCC’s National Broadband Plan and numerous state programs confirm that demand exists for enhanced broadband in the overall areas of government, public safety, education, health care and business. This organic process is truly evolving, and much is being learned in the process of achieving the ongoing objective of adequate broadband capacity. Part of the challenge is to ultimately establish an “Organized System” which will address the disparate factions involved in this process. If the NBP’s goal of reaching a first-generation network is to be realized, much is to be accomplished.

Statewide Institutions for Implementing Broadband Plans

Round Two of the BTOP and BIP programs has made a clear distinction between middle-mile and last-mile. Irrespective of the motivation behind this distinction, it illustrates the fact that many institutional users consistently require large amounts of bandwidth, which are often delivered via proprietary networks.

In virtually every state the largest single user is the state itself. Most have an existing Department of Internet Technology, or other agency responsible for overseeing and administering the state’s IT requirements. Issues in terms of broadband include:

  • A network adequate to connect required state facilities, including government buildings, police, fire, and other essential governmental services.
  • Whether the network is owned or leased, long-term agreements to purchase bandwidth must be negotiated and entered into.
  • A facility adequate to accommodate required data storage, continuity of services and disaster recovery.

The challenge facing many states is to extend the state network to reach essential facilities in rural areas. Such areas are less cost effective to serve by fiber, particularly in the near term. Other technologies, including microwave and satellite may be required to provide adequate bandwidth within a reasonable timeframe.

The demand for bandwidth in education is expanding exponentially. There clearly exists a correlation between schools with adequate broadband capability and those without, in terms of academic performance. Universities, colleges, community colleges, high schools and elementary schools all have broadband requirements.

As with the states, educational institutions have network, purchasing and data storage needs. Also with respect to education, libraries have their own unique requirements. Libraries will continue to be the source of important educational and other vital information. These institutions clearly a require increased broadband capacity as well as improved Internet access facilities for end users.

Health care facilities also have extensive broadband requirements. “Telehealth” involves the use of medical information exchanged from one community to another via electronic communications to improve patients’ health status.

A statewide proprietary network is required, which interconnects hospitals and other health care facilities. The bandwidth requirements are significant, particularly with the condition that all health care records be digital by 2015. Unique data center services are also required to manage such a network.

Naturally, the business community will continue to have broadband requirements. Although funded privately, the state must ensure that adequate bandwidth is accessible, and that a broadband-friendly environment exists.

Last-Mile Requirements

Unfortunately, the last-mile or end user component has been somewhat overlooked thus far in the broadband stimulus process. Relegated to the BIP program, there is currently less federal money available to extend access in rural and underserved areas. In spite of the real potential for wireless broadband, such as WiMAX, the vast majority of last-mile funding went to telephone companies. This situation is ironic in that the original primary purpose behind the stimulus programs was to increase the percentage of homes with adequate access to broadband capacity.

As with institutional users, the state clearly has a responsibility to address unacceptable last-mile levels, particularly in rural areas. The dynamics of providing service to these areas is dependent upon there being a middle-mile component in place to supply last-mile providers.

While middle-mile fiber is being deployed by some successful Round One telephone companies, the challenge is often providing middle-mile to more remote locations. If fiber cannot supply this connection, other technologies such as microwave and satellite may be required. With over 2,000 wireless broadband providers nationwide, WISPs should provide an integral link in providing adequate last-mile connectivity.

The Parties at the Broadband Table

Achieving an organized broadband system requires the consideration of a number of parties. Among these are State government, state-created entities, non-profit advocacy groups, trade associations, institutions, bandwidth suppliers and contractors. Existing initiatives and alliances have been created, which should comprise the foundation for an organized system. Notwithstanding, disparate agendas often exist, which may impede this overall process.

The state is at the forefront, with its demand, oversight and funding resources. States have differing structures in place, with responsibilities and control often spread over various agencies. Direction must ultimately come from governors to ensure that an organized system is in place internally. The state will have existing contracts with bandwidth providers and contractors as required. Naturally, the these parties will want to protect such arrangements.

Most states have created and funded one or more entities to foster broadband capacity. Some of these groups are virtually ineffectual, yet others literally oversee all broadband activity in the state, while reporting to the Governor. Their responsibilities may include preparation of state RFPs as well as applications for state and Federal funding. Such entities are usually non-profit, and ostensibly independent in nature.

The aforementioned institutions will also have existing vendors, which want to be protected. An institution’s overall objective should be to meet its individual requirements, while participating in an overall organized broadband system that is advantageous to the institution, the system and the state.

Broadband Challenges Ahead

It is becoming clear that enhanced broadband capacity will reap numerous economic and educational advantages at the state level. Naturally, a major hurdle involves adequate funding. Federal broadband stimulus money allocated to date will stimulate the overall process, however, additional financial resources will be required.

The national broadband plan has initially requested $25 billion in new funding. While procedures for requesting this money have yet to be established, it is important for states to prepare for this process. In order to obtain funding at the state level it is essential that lawmakers become more aware of the benefits of enhanced broadband. States that have existing funding programs will no doubt stand a greater chance of being awarded funding under the plan.

Leadership, organization and cooperation are the keywords in establishing an organized statewide broadband system. A focused structure with clear objectives, lines of responsibility and accountability will be required. Regular communication among the agencies and other parties involved is paramount.

While successful vendors should be rewarded, others should be included to promote competition within the state. States that aggressively pursue enhanced broadband capabilities at this juncture will achieve near-term objectives, while laying the foundation for important future technological developments.

Jeff Eden has 23 years of experience in the telecommunications industry, and is available for consultation with regard to the broadband stimulus process at: jeff@edenbroadband.com

Jeff Eden has been in the telecommunications industry for 23 years, including working with cable franchising, retransmission consent, and WiMAX technologies. As an investment banker with Daniels and Associates in Denver, Jeff brokered $50 million in cable deals, primarily on the Southwest. While at Avalon Partners, he brokered internet service providers and satellite companies valued at $75 million and located in the Midwest, Maryland and Puerto Rico.

Broadband Mapping & Data

Jeff Miller: Tools to Manage the Next-Generation Network Buildouts

Service providers that use GIS applications are able to reduce design time by 80 percent.

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The author of this expert opinion is Jeff Miller, Synchronoss Technologies CEO.

Today’s digital world is driving the insatiable need for fiber networks and connectivity, thus the thrust for widespread broadband buildouts and deployments worldwide. Broadband connectivity is the heartbeat for mobility, cloud applications, voice, video, and social media, not to mention home automation, IoT, and smart cities. As a result, service providers and operators are investing heavily in infrastructure, claiming their 5G networks are the largest or fastest or most reliable.

Initiatives like the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund are aimed at bridging the digital divide and fast-tracking investment to deploy high speed fixed broadband service to rural areas and small businesses that lack it. The Federal Communications Commission’s $20.4 billion program requires that networks stand the test of time by prioritizing higher network speeds and lower latency.

A key element in the implementation of RDOF-backed projects is broadband mapping. The Federal Communications Commission is in the process of updating its current broadband maps with more detailed and precise information on the availability of fixed and mobile broadband services. The Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability Act, signed into law in March 2020, requires the FCC to change the way broadband data is collected, verified, and reported

As carriers build, expand, and upgrade their fiber network infrastructure, a great deal of planning is required, along with documenting the intricacies of design and engineering processes.

Streamlining and automating network planning and design processes through software can deliver accurate and timely network info for service providers, increase efficiency, and create opportunities for reducing costs.

GIS based systems are replacing volumes of paper, and outdated static CAD, Excel and Vizio files. They offer sophisticated tools to manage all aspects of network design and infrastructure management. Working with many service providers that use GIS applications, they are able to reduce design time by 80 percent and drastically cut other capital expenditures.

Automation is key

Having to rely on a system of manual processes to manage the fiber network makes it increasingly difficult to scale. Fortunately, with the introduction of automation into the network management process by utilizing an accurate physical network inventory in addition to geographic information system mapping, scalability becomes a much easier task.

Continuous planning and engineering tasks can ultimately become automated through software implementation. Automating network fiber management creates significant business value by shifting a service provider’s approach from reactive to proactive. A comprehensive and updated database for network architecture quickly allows for scenario analysis and capacity planning. Sharing automated processes across different organizations becomes much simpler and improves collaboration while reducing errors. This can allow staff to shift their focus to more pressing operational activities thus making the network more reliable.

Integration between different systems

Whether it is your enterprise GIS or outage monitoring system, it should be easy to interact with third-party systems to get the most out of the network data. Ideally, you should be able to receive an outage notification and use that location to track down the network and pinpoint the root cause to act and quickly resolve the situation before customers notice. This can help save time, money, and guarantee customer satisfaction.

Mobilize network data and increase field worker productivity

Utilizing a fiber networking and planning solution enables network information to be shared easily and quickly between the field and office to provide access to the information they need when they need it at any given time. Enterprise-wide access can provide timely and accurate network information for a wide range of communications service providers.

When it comes to service providers, expanded visibility into a network yields a greater overall awareness of the network. Automating third-party data exchange processes with accurate and up-to date inventory can optimize performance for field workers and guarantee customer satisfaction. Improved access to data can increase ROI by allowing cable locators and field techs to receive accurate confirmation before they arrive at a job. In the end, there will be fewer mistakes which ensures happier customers.

The right tools can result in improved scalability, reduced time to revenue, lower operational costs, and actionable insights that can be gleaned from network data.

Jeff Miller serves as President and CEO of Synchronoss Technologies. He previously served as President for IDEAL Industries Technology Group, following a 16-year experience with Motorola Mobility where he was Corporate Vice President of North America. Miller also serves on the Board of 1871, Chicago’s largest start-up incubator, and on the non-profit Boards of Aspire Chicago and Junior Achievement. This article is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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Dmitry Sumin: What to Do About Flash Calls, the New SMS Replacement

Why are flash calls on the rise and how do operators handle them to maximize revenue?

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Dmitry Sumin, AB Handshake Corporation Head of Products

Chances are you’ve received several flash calls this week when registering for a new app or verifying a transaction. Flash calls are almost instantly dropped calls that deliver one-time passcodes to users, verifying their phone numbers and actions. Many prominent apps and companies, such as Viber, Telegram, WhatsApp, and TikTok, use flash calls as a cheaper, faster, and more user-friendly alternative to application-to-person SMS.

With the flash call volume expected to increase 25-fold from 2022 to 2026, from five to 130 billion, it’s no wonder they’re a hot topic in the telecom industry.

But what’s the problem, you may ask?

The problem is that there is currently no way for operators to bill zero-duration calls. This means operators don’t make any termination revenue from flash calls, which overload networks. What’s more, operators lose SMS termination revenues as businesses switch to flash calls. SMS business messaging accounts for up to five percent of total operator-billed revenue in 2021, so you can see the scale of potential revenue losses for operators. 

In this article, I’ll discuss why flash calls are on the rise, why it’s difficult to detect and monetize them, and what operators can do about this.

Why are flash calls overtaking SMS passcodes?

Previously, application-to-person SMS was a popular way to deliver one-time passwords. But enterprises and communication service providers are increasingly switching to flash calls because they have several disruptive advantages over SMS.

First and foremost, flash calls are considerably cheaper than SMS, sometimes costing up to eight times less. Cost of delivery is, of course, a prime concern for apps and enterprises.

Second, flash calls ensure smooth user interaction, which boosts user satisfaction and retention. On Androids, mobile apps automatically extract flash call passcodes. This makes the two-factor authentication process fast and frictionless. In comparison, SMS passcodes require users to read the SMS and sometimes insert the code manually.

Third, on average flash calls reach users within 15 seconds, while SMS sometimes take 20 seconds or longer. The delivery speed of flash calls also improves the user experience.

The problem: Flash calls erode operators’ SMS revenues

While offering notable advantages for apps, flash call service providers, and end users, flash calls create numerous challenges for operators and transit carriers.

As we discussed before, flash calls erode operators’ SMS revenues because much of the new flash call traffic will be shifted away from current SMS business messaging. The issue is only going to become more pressing as the volume of flash calls grows.

So from the operator’s standpoint, flash calls reduce revenue, disrupt relations with interconnect partners, and overload networks. However, there is still no industry consensus on how to handle flash calls: block them like spam and fraudulent traffic or find a monetization model for this verification channel, like for application-to-person SMS.

Accurate detection of flash calls is a challenge

The first crucial step that gives operators the upper hand is accurately detecting flash calls.

This is difficult because operators have no way of discerning legitimate verification flash calls from fraud schemes that rely on drop calls, such as wangiri. The wangiri fraud scheme uses instantly dropped calls to trick users into calling back premium rate numbers. In addition, flash calls need to be distinguished from genuine missed calls placed by customers.

The problem is that even advanced AI-powered fraud management systems struggle to accurately differentiate between various zero-duration calls. The task requires AI engines to be trained on large volumes of relevant traffic coupled with analysis of hundreds of specific call parameters.

Dedicated anti-fraud solutions are the answer

There are only a few solutions on the market that are capable of accurately distinguishing flash calls from other zero-duration calls. Dedicated fraud management vendors have made progress on this difficult task.

The highest accuracy of flash call detection now available on the market is 99.92 percent. Such tools allow operators to precisely determine the ranges from which flash calls are sent. As a result, operators can make an informed decision on how to treat flash calls to maximize revenue and can proactively negotiate with flash call providers.

Flash call detection creates new opportunities

Our team estimates that flash calls make up to four percent of Tier one operators’ international voice traffic. Without accurate detection and a billing strategy, this portion of traffic overloads operators’ networks and offers no revenue. However, with proper detection flash calls offer a new business opportunity.

Now is a crucial time for operators to start implementing flash call detection into their system and capitalize on the trend.

There are a few anti-fraud solutions on the market that give operators all the necessary information to negotiate a billing agreement with a flash call provider. Once an agreement has been reached, all flash calls coming from this provider will be monetized, much like SMS.

All flash calls not covered by agreements can be blocked automatically. This will help to restore SMS revenues. Once a flash call has been blocked, subscribers will most likely receive an SMS passcode sent as a fallback.

Moreover, modern solutions don’t affect any legitimate traffic because they only block selected ranges. This also helps to prevent revenue loss.

Essentially, the choice of how to handle flash calls comes down to each operator. However, without a powerful anti-fraud solution capable of accurately detecting flash calls in real time, it’s nearly impossible to monetize flash calls effectively and develop a billing strategy.

Dmitry Sumin is the Head of Products at the AB Handshake Corporation. He has more than 15 years of experience in international roaming, interconnect and fraud management. Since graduating from Moscow State University, he has worked for both vendors and network operators in the MVNO and telecommunications market. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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Bjorn Capens: Strong Appetite for Rural Broadband Calls for Next Generation Fiber Technology

The first operator to bring fiber to a community creates a significant barrier to entry for competitors.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Björn Capens, Nokia Fixed Networks European Vice President

In July, the Biden-Harris administration announced another $401 million in funding for high-speed Internet access in rural America. This was just the latest in a string of government initiatives aimed at helping close the US digital divide.

These initiatives have been essential for encouraging traditional broadband providers, communities and utility companies to deploy fiber to rural communities, with governments cognizant of the vital role broadband connectivity has in sustaining communities and improving socio-economic opportunities for citizens. 

Yet there is still work to do, even in countries with the most advanced connectivity options. For example, fixed broadband is missing from almost 30 percent of rural American homes, according to Pew Research. It’s similar in Europe where a recent European Commission’s Digital Divide report found that roughly 18 percent of rural citizens can only get broadband speeds of a maximum 30 Mb, a speed which struggles to cope with modern digital behaviors. 

Appetite for high-speed broadband in rural areas is strong

There’s no denying the appetite for high-speed broadband in rural areas. The permanent increase in working from home and the rise of modern agricultural and Industry 4.0 applications mean that there’s an increasingly attractive business case for rural fiber deployments – as the first operator to bring fiber to a community creates a significant barrier to entry for competitors. 

The first consideration, then, for a new rural fiber deployment is which passive optical network technology to use. Gigabit PON seems like an obvious first choice, being a mature and widely deployed technology. 

However, GPON services are a standard offering for nearly every fiber broadband operator. As PON is a shared medium with usually up to 30 users each taking a slice, it’s easy to see how a few Gigabit customers can quickly max out the network, and with the ever-increasing need for speed, it’s widely held that GPON will not be sufficient by about 2025. 

XGS-PON is an already mature technology

The alternative is to use XGS-PON, a more recent, but already mature, flavor of PON with a capacity of 10 Gigabits per second. With the greater capacity, broadband operators can generate higher revenues with more premium-tier residential services as well as lucrative business services. There’s even room for additional services to run alongside business and residential broadband. For example, the same network can carry traffic from four G and five G cells, known as mobile backhaul. That’s either a new revenue opportunity or a cost saving if the operator also runs a mobile network. 

This convergence of different services onto a single PON fiber network is starting to take off, with fiber-to-the-home networks evolving into fiber for everything, where homes, businesses, industries, smart cities, mobile cells and more are all running on the same infrastructure. This makes the business case even stronger. 

Whether choosing GPON or XGS-PON, the biggest cost contributor is the same for both: deploying fiber outside the plant. Therefore, the increased cost of XGS-PON over GPON is far outweighed by the capacity increase it brings, making XGS-PON the clear choice for a brand-new fiber deployment. XGS-PON protects this investment for longer as its higher capacity makes it harder for new entrants to offer a superior service. 

It also doesn’t need to be upgraded for many years, and when it comes to the business case for fiber, it pays to take a long-term view. Fiber optic cable has a shelf-life of 75 or more years, and even as one increases the speeds running on fiber, that cable can remain the same.  

Notwithstanding these arguments, fiber still comes at a cost, and operators need to carefully manage those costs in order to maximize returns. 

Recent advances in fiber technology allow operators to take a pragmatic approach to their rollouts. In the past, each port on a PON server blade could only deliver one technology. But Multi-PON has multiple modes: only GPON, only XGS-PON or both together. It even has a forward-looking 25G PON mode. 

This allows an operator to easily boost speeds as needed with minimal effort and additional investment. GPON could be the starting point for fiber-to-the-home services, XGS-PON could be added for business services, or even a move to 25G PON for a cluster of rural power users, like factories and modern warehouses – creating a seamless, future-proof upgrade path for operators. 

The decision not to invest in fiber presents a substantial business risk

Alternatively, there’s always the option for a broadband operator to stick with basic broadband in rural areas and not invest in fiber. But that actually presents a business risk, as any competitor that decides to deploy fiber will inevitably carve out a chunk of the customer base for themselves. 

Besides, most operators are not purely profit-driven; they too recognize that prolonging the current situation in underserved communities is not great. High-speed broadband makes areas more attractive for businesses, creating more jobs and stemming population flows from rural to urban centers. 

But rural broadband not only improves lives, but it also decreases the world’s carbon emissions both directly, compared to alternative broadband technologies, and indirectly by enabling online and remote activities that would otherwise involve transportation. These social and economic benefits of fiber are highly regarded by investors and stockholders who have corporate social responsibility high on their agendas. 

With the uber-connected urban world able to adopt every new wave of bandwidth-hungry application – think virtual reality headsets and the metaverse – rural communities are actually going backwards in comparison. The way forward is fiber and XGS-PON. 

Björn Capens is Nokia Fixed Networks European Vice President. Since 2017, Capens has been leading Nokia’s fixed networks business, headquartered in Antwerp, Belgium. He has more than 20 years of experience in the fixed broadband access industry and holds a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering, Telecommunications, from KU Leuven. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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