June 24, 2021—Fiber will be the definitive technology that will help supply increasing broadband demands in the future, a Broadband Breakfast panel heard Wednesday, but complimentary technologies also play an important role.
Broadband Breakfast hosted experts on both sides of the border – Gord Reynolds from Infrastructure Ontario and Mark Boxer, applications engineering manager for fiber manufacturer OFS – and discussed how physical infrastructure impacts digital infrastructure.
Boxer said that over the next ten years, bandwidth demands will continue to increase, and that ultimately, fiber will be the primary solution to ensuring that consumers can engage in all the behaviors and activities that they want to.
He also argued that wireless technologies should be used to compliment fiber infrastructure rather than an alternative to fiber, adding more fiber means more flexibility with spectrum allocation, while more wireless would lead to less flexibility because there is only so much spectrum, and jurisdictions need to allocate it differently while every stakeholder is vying for more spectrum.
On Tuesday, experts warned Congress that it shouldn’t go all-in on wired infrastructure, partly because those other technologies add redundancy and resiliency to those hard connections.
Discussions over the past several months have been focused increasingly on the importance and prominence of fiber, which many say is the lifeblood of high-quality networks. In March, Republican South Carolina Senators Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham reintroduced the State Fix Act, which would pledge $20 billion for broadband infrastructure using fiber.
Similar sentiment in Canada’s most populous province
Infrastructure Ontario is an agency of the Government of Ontario and is tasked with facilitating public/private partnerships to build everything from hospitals and highways to telecom networks. Reynolds said IO wants to provide at least 50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload – the federal objective — in every region of the province, with a penetration between 80 and 90 percent—most which IO plans to connect with wired infrastructure.
Even though wired connections are the goal, Reynolds said the perfect should not become the enemy of the good, and that satellite and fixed wireless technologies need to be a part of the solution for the hardest to reach areas.
Boxer echoed many of the points expressed by Reynolds, stating that the infrastructure that is laid today must be able to handle the consumer demands of tomorrow. He pointed to how much consumer usage has changed in just the past several years.
“In a residence, if you’re using Netflix, and [Microsoft] Teams, and cameras, you have to add that all up,” he said. “And as we start doing that, we are seeing the potential trends for gigabit services that are needed.” (Some have expressed skepticism about whether fixed-wireless technologies can supply gigabit speeds.)
Speeds need updating
As it currently stands, the Federal Communications Commission considers broadband to be anything that is capable of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload, but Boxer said that in his experience, 25/3 is basically unusable for a family and their pattern of broadband consumption.
“There are so many applications now that use our networks and so many of these applications are using two-way traffic that the higher speed levels become very important,” he said, adding “[OFS has] been on the record in some of the 100/100 proposals that have taken place [to adjust the definition of broadband].”
The Fiber Broadband Association has said that the current speed standard is inadequate, while others have said the speed debate is getting in the way of connecting the un(der)served.
Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place every Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. You can watch the June 23, 2021, event on this page. You can also PARTICIPATE in the current Broadband Breakfast Live Online event. REGISTER HERE.
Wednesday, June 23, 2021, 12 Noon ET — “Roads, Bridges and Broadband: How Physical Infrastructure Impacts Digital Infrastructure”
Though poles and fiber are perhaps the most obvious aspects of infrastructure associate with broadband, telecommunications companies must consider many different features adjacent to broadband. The conversation regarding physical infrastructure begins before telcos can even break ground. Indeed, mapping, “dig once” policies and the physical terrain around roads and towers are all aspects that need to be considered before internet deployment can begin. Join Broadband Breakfast for a session exploring the unique ways that roads, bridges, and other pieces of physical infrastructure shape the deployment of digital infrastructure.
- Mark Boxer, Applications Engineering Manager, OFS Optics
- Gord Reynolds, Vice President of Commercial Advisory & Strategy, Infrastructure Ontario
- Drew Clark (moderator), Editor and Publisher of Broadband Breakfast
Mark Boxer is a Technical, Solutions and Applications Engineering Manager for OFS. In this role, he assists customers deploying fiber in a wide variety of network design scenarios around the world and analyzes trends in telecommunications markets that drive new product innovation. Mark has a BME degree from Georgia Tech, and has spent his 30+ year career in the fiber industry including varied roles in manufacturing and applications engineering for fiber-based products and markets.
Gord Reynolds is currently the Vice President of Commercial Advisory and Strategy at Infrastructure Ontario leading a variety of initiatives to improve utility coordination and accelerate the delivery of broadband across Canada. Prior to this, Gord was the Managing Director of Capgemini’s Canadian Utilities Practice and the Global innovation leader for the Power & Utility sector. He was also a member of Capgemini’s Global Sector Council and spent 8 years as the Global lead for Capgemini’s Smart Energy Services and Digital Utilities Transformation initiatives for the Energy, Utility and Chemicals sector.
Drew Clark, Editor and Publisher of Broadband Breakfast, also serves as Of Counsel to The CommLaw Group. He has helped fiber-based and fixed wireless providers negotiate telecom leases and fiber IRUs, litigate to operate in the public right of way, and argue regulatory classifications before federal and state authorities. In addition to representing public and private providers on broadband issues, Drew is actively involved in issues surrounding interconnected Voice-over-Internet-Protocol service, spectrum licenses, robocalling including STIR/SHAKEN, and the provision of video franchises and “over-the-top” copyrighted content.
As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.
British Telecoms Are Aligning with Emerging U.S. Position on Open RAN Adoption
Open RAN adoption is said to save telecoms money and boost security, as providers are forced to move off Huawei.
October 18, 2021 – Howard Watson, chief technology officer of telecommunications company BT Group, spoke on Wednesday at the Broadband World Forum about the future of the UK’s network infrastructure, including removing Huawei’s equipment from their networks and developing open radio access networks for wider use.
Speaking at the opening session titled “Building an innovative converged network infrastructure for the UK,” Watson discussed the challenges and possibilities for offering fast, secure broadband and offered O-RAN as a solution for wider connectivity.
Watson discussed utilizing open RAN to facilitate greater interoperability between vendors’ equipment, as it opens the market to more technologies due to its open configuration. The concept advocates for a more open radio access network than provided today, which is held by fewer vendors.
The Federal Communications Commission has pushed for ways to develop open RAN to minimize network security risk, as the movement has gained significant momentum since Huawei was banned over the past 18 months. FCC Acting Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel has described open RAN as having “extraordinary potential for our economy and national security.”
“When customers go back into the office, the infrastructure they left behind must have key growth” Watson said, referencing the shift in office culture toward remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Expectations of customers change,” Watson said, adding that “they expect broadband to be always on, they expect high bandwidth.” Above all, “they expect investment no matter the cost.”
BT is seeking to deploy to 90 percent coverage in the UK by 2028.
On the sidelines of his keynote address, Watson noted BT’s progress in limiting Huawei products to 35 percent of an operator’s fiber access footprint by 2023. The UK government requires that Huawei’s equipment must be removed entirely by the end of 2027. The UK considers Huawei a “high risk” vendor for its network infrastructure.
However, BT is waiting for Huawei’s equipment to grow old before replacing it, Watson said. “Our intention is to ensure that we get the full economic life out of the Huawei [products] that we have deployed,” he said. He said BT believes the products can be used until 2031 or later.
“We’re in talks with government about that timeline” Watson said.
Panel discussion about European fiber investment
Watson said that “densification” happens in areas that are fiber rich, so “providing fiber to smaller cell sites is naturally an evolution.”
He said that BT is looking at a range of alternatives including Wi-Fi solutions to getting 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) capability to household through open architecture-based solutions.
In addition to Watson, a panel focused on the investment parameters for fiber investment featuring officials from Macquarie Group and Eurofiber.
The panel focused on investment challenges and strategies for broadband infrastructure investment and discussed an opportunistic vision for broadband deployment. Speaking of more mature market with a history of broadband adoption, Macquarie Managing Director Oliver Bradley asked how providers could transition to more efficiency and maximizing the value of an existing network.
Among the principal drivers for investment include co-investing and deregulation, he said.
UTOPIA Fiber Goes to Court in Utah Over American Fork’s Build Permit Refusals
Fiber builder says it has been denied permits that have harmed it and its customers, despite an existing city agreement.
October 13, 2021 – UTOPIA Fiber filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the city of American Fork in Utah for breach of contract after the city allegedly denied build permits to the fiber builder despite there being an existing contract between the two parties.
The fiber provider, which runs an open network on which private telecoms rent space on to provide services, alleges the city had approved some permits that only allowed it to construct backbone transport lines through the city connecting other cities, but denied it key permits that would have allowed it to extend services to UTOPIA Fiber customers inside the city. Those services include connections to American Fork’s public schools.
In July 2020, the city allegedly terminated the 2018 rights-of-way agreement with no explanation, the lawsuit claims. It also alleges that the city specifically discriminated against UTOPIA Fiber by adding additional scrutiny to its permit requests when it believed no such scrutiny existed for other providers.
Broadband Breakfast attempted to make contact with the city, but a phone call was not answered and a voicemail message was not returned by the time of publication.
“American Fork’s refusal to approve permit requests by or for UTOPIA for service laterals for customers within American Fork has harmed UTOPIA, its customers, and the private ISPs who wish to offer services within American Fork using UTOPIA’s Network,” the lawsuit said. “In some cases, UTOPIA has been forced to buy capacity from other network providers that are allowed to install infrastructure in American Fork, so that UTOPIA can fulfill existing contracts with its customers.
“In other cases, UTOPIA has been forced to cancel existing customer orders for connections within American Fork and has lost significant revenues as a result,” the suit added. “UTOPIA has also recently been forced to cancel or reject over a dozen additional customer orders because UTOPIA is unable, due to American Fork’s conduct, to obtain the permits needed to fulfill those orders, and again lost significant revenues as a result.”
In a press release, UTOPIA’s executive director Roger Timmerman said the lawsuit was a “last resort and not an easy decision to make.
“It is our hope that with judicial review, American Fork City will reverse its policies, work within the boundaries of the law, and ultimately, act in the best interest of the people and businesses in American Fork City by allowing them access to the increased options UTOPIA Fiber provides,” Timmerman added.
UTOPIA Fiber is asking the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah to force the city to pay the company damages sustained as a result of the alleged actions, to find the city violated the law with respect to its actions, and to force the city to cease the alleged “discriminatory and preferential actions” against the company.
UTOPIA Fiber, a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast, has designed, built, and operated more than $330 million worth of fiber projects in the state since 2009.
Comcast Business Says It’s Expanding Into Fiber Builds in Greater Washington Area
The company is putting millions more into fiber infrastructure in the Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia areas.
WASHINGTON, October 6, 2021 – Comcast’s business division announced a two-year, $28-million investment to expand fiber through the beltway region of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Washington D.C., and West Virginia.
The company said in a press release Wednesday that $13 million of that was invested last year and $15 million have gone into projects that are underway or planned for this year. It is expected to connect nearly 7,000 additional businesses to speeds of up to 100 Gigabits per second for large businesses, it said, adding it’s all part of the $110 million Comcast Business has spent in the area since 2015.
The expansion is part of a larger effort by telecommunications companies in this country to drive fiber to the premises, and to get ahead of the next generation 5G networks. As this is happening, more federal and state dollars are being plowed into broadband infrastructure as President Joe Biden sets his sights on providing access to high-speed internet to 100 percent of the country by the end of the decade.
“The ability to offer both diversity of network and carrier is becoming increasingly important to help drive economic development and transformation,” Ed Rowan, senior director of Comcast Business sales operations in the region, said in the release.
“Connectivity is at the core of this and, more than ever, is an integral factor as businesses expand and prepare for what’s next. Our network expansions across Comcast’s Beltway Region are the latest example of the significant technology investments we’ve made to increase the availability of our multi-Gigabit Ethernet services,” he added. “These investments will help foster economic development, transform our local communities, and better meet next-generation capacity needs across the region.”
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