Paul Thomen

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Broadband Leasing Opportunities in Wireless Networks, Mobile Data Offloading

Thintri, Inc. announces the release of Opportunities in Broadband Leasing, a new market study that surveys growing opportunities in bandwidth leasing, particularly wireless broadband leasing. The report discusses the imminent shortage of available wireless bandwidth, explores the sources of that shortage in terms of the explosive growth in wireless data traffic, with an analysis of the individual markets contributing to that growth in demand, including the latent demand in rural and other underserved markets. A discussion of the growth and development of today’s wireless networks with new technologies such as 4G and LTE includes the adaptation involved in today’s wireless networks, namely, the offloading of data traffic off of cellular networks and onto WiFi and other types of networks.

Established fixed wired broadband (optical fiber, DSL, cable) is analyzed, along with the leasing opportunities already established in dark fiber and wavelength services.

Finally, wireless technologies, particularly millimeter waves and TV white space, are presented with a thorough analysis of the markets available to them, in terms of both system sales and leasing opportunities, all enabled by the imminent wireless broadband crisis.

The report separates hype from reality and assesses the dramatically changing landscape facing telecommunications providers, and the opportunities for them and others who are prepared to address the dramatic opportunities now emerging. Forecasts are supplied for demand in data traffic and systems sales, under current conditions going out to 2020.

- Background: The Bandwidth Crunch
- Demand Drivers
- Rural Broadband and Underserved Markets
- Evolution and Options in Today’s Wireless Networks
- Mobile Data Offloading
- Fixed Wired Broadband
- Dark Fiber & Wavelength Services
- The Opportunities: TV White Space
- The Opportunities: Millimeter Wave Systems
- Wireless Bandwidth Leasing

Background on Opportunities in Broadband Leasing

The global telecommunications industry faces an imminent crisis in growth of mobile data traffic, and its inability to meet growing demand with the industry’s present (and planned) infrastructure. Wireless carriers compete on the basis of coverage and performance. Both are at risk in the near future.
The last few years have seen the beginning of a significant shift from fixed (mostly wired) to mobile (wireless) data transmission.

Exponential growth of data traffic over cellular networks has led network operators to look at new, alternative approaches to managing congestion, because the pace of building out new networks is too slow by itself to keep up with bandwidth demand. Already the incidence of dropped cellular calls has increased markedly.

In 2010, mobile traffic was about 240,000 terabytes (TB) per month. By 2015, that is expected to grow to 6.3 million TB per month. At that rate, all the mobile traffic of 2010 will be carried in the first two weeks of 2015.

In response, carriers are adjusting their business models, expanding coverage areas, deploying 4G and LTE networks, taking advantage of picocells and femtocells to enhance available bandwidth. Most importantly, they are beginning to offload data traffic onto other networks, primarily WiFi.
It is this dire need for greater network capacity, combined with the need for carriers to find bandwidth quickly where available, that has presented some unique business opportunities, which are highlighted in this report.

While basic-feature handsets still make up 88% of the mobile telephone market, and home gateways and other wireless devices will continue their traditional growth, data traffic consumption is rapidly moving to a new generation of smartphones, tablets and laptops/netbooks. On top of that, a potentially enormous machine-to-machine (M2M) market is emerging which will grow to consume vast amounts of bandwidth, much of it wireless, in the near future.

Other market drivers are making themselves felt as well. Education and healthcare, for example, are rapidly moving toward greater use of mobile data.

The benefits to schools and colleges connecting to the Internet by broadband wireless networks are many. Remote learning, virtual classrooms that can be attended by students everywhere without regard to distance, is increasingly used to establish presence of academic institutions throughout the world.
At the college/university level, the introduction of campus- or building-wide wireless networking options will also act to include research communications and academic data transfer on wireless networks.
Today’s healthcare is a very data-intensive business. Increasingly, medical institutions need high-bandwidth connections to run demanding tasks such as e-mailing x-rays, MRI scans and other medical images, sharing databases, transferring medical records and other tasks.

Demand for wireless medical services is anticipated to increase by 50% per year throughout the decade. Including mobile applications, the digital health market is estimated to have been $1.7 billion in 2010, growing to $5.7 billion by 2015. Consumers today have made use of more than 200 million health-related downloads on portable devices, with that number growing more than 100% per year.

One of the greatest disruptive influences in today’s mobile networks is machine-to-machine (M2M) applications, namely, the communications between separate electronic devices without human intervention. This “Internet of things” promises to remake a host of industries.

Most of these connections will be from hardware that will be connected to the Web independent of human interaction. Some will be connected appliances such as household refrigerators and washing machines, as well as healthcare devices, and consumer electronics like televisions, game consoles and cameras.
Another big problem the world over is bringing the benefits of the Internet age to those who, because of geography, limited resources and lack of proximity to digital infrastructure, have been left behind. Internet access is inherently more difficult to bring to sparse populations due to higher costs, given the greater number of network links that are required to reach the population.

Wired solutions, preferable both in cost and performance, do not generally reach locations of low population density, which has left much of the rural population underserved or unserved, although DSL and even some optical fiber networks are extending their reach outside urban and suburban areas.
The unserved/underserved market in the US is 3 to 6% of the population, almost all in rural locations. In many nations, the percentage is much higher.  The demand for broadband access in underserved areas, while a relatively small fraction of the whole, is nevertheless significant.

The main focus in reaching rural customers is on wireless technology, which will in many cases serve to extend existing fiber or other fixed wired networks outside their normal ranges.

That extension of fiber networks need not apply only to rural and underserved markets. As the report shows, there is significant demand for broadband capacity beyond established fiber networks in heavily populated, even congested areas. Quite often, in an urban environment with a high density of fiber networks, extending those fiber cables to nearby users is prohibitively expensive, creating a solid market for broadband wireless fiber extension access even in the largest cities.

Understand the Opportunities

The way out of the current crisis largely lies on a path similar to that taken by fixed wired broadband technologies, optical fiber in particular. An entire industry has sprung up around optical fiber networks offering dark fiber and wavelength services. Users are able to lease or purchase optical fiber already in place, or merely lease specific wavelengths on existing “lit” fibers or portions of a fiber cable’s capacity.

Emerging technologies such as TV white space and millimeter waves will be key components in bringing a similar model to bear on wireless networks, where wireless links can be set up for the purposes of offloading wireless data traffic from 4G /LTE networks, or simply to lease capacity, or entire links, to anyone who needs it.

A key feature of these new alternatives is that, while they will be employed by large carriers, they need not be. Smaller firms, similar to those managing dark fiber and wavelength services, are also well situated to offer wireless systems specifically designed to address the burgeoning demand for wireless bandwidth.

Bandwidth leasing, in a time of crisis for today’s telecommunications industry, presents an unusual opportunity for industry players and other investors. Opportunities in Broadband Leasing presents an analysis of those opportunities, relying on in-depth interviews with industry executives, market development managers and other experts.  The report provides a survey of the imminent bandwidth crunch, its driving forces, the response of the telecommunications industry, a detailed discussion of potential alternatives such as TV white space and millimeter waves, markets available to those alternatives, and demand for wireless broadband leasing over the decade. Forecasts are provided out to 2020.

Table of Content

Executive Summary 1
E.1 The Bandwidth Crunch 1
E.2 Demand Drivers 2
E.2.1 Education 2
E.2.2 Healthcare 2
E.2.3 Public Safety 3
E.2.4 Transportation 3
E.2.5 Business 3
E.2.6 Machine-to-Machine 3
E.3 Reaching Underserved Markets 4
E.4 Evolution & Options in Today's Networks 5
E.4.1 2G/3G 5
E.4.2 4G 5
E.4.3 Long Term Evolution (LTE) 6
E.4.4 WiMAX 6
E.4.5 Backhaul 7
E.5 Data Offloading 7
E.6 Fixed Wired Broadband: Fiber, DSL, Cable 8
E.6.1 Fiber 9
E.6.2 Cable 9
E.6.3 DSL/VDSL 10
E.7 Dark Fiber and Wavelength Services 12
E.8 White Space 14
E.9 Millimeter Waves 19
E.10 Wireless Bandwidth Leasing 23
Part 1 Background – The Bandwidth Crunch 25
1.1 Introduction 25
1.2 Growth of Mobile Data Traffic 26
1.3 Background on Wireless Broadband Demand 28
1.4 Current Approaches to Expanding Capacity 30
1.5 Hazards to Carriers 30
1.6 Regulatory Factors 33
Part 2 Demand Drivers 34
2.1 Consumer Markets 34
2.2 Non-Consumer Markets 37
2.2.1 Education 37
2.2.2 Healthcare 38
2.2.3 Public Safety 39
2.2.4 Transportation 40
2.2.5 Business 41
2.2.6 Machine-to-Machine 41
Part 3 Rural Broadband & Reaching Underserved Markets 44
3.1 Stimulus 44
3.2 Wired Options 44
3.3 Wireless Options 45
3.4 Issues with Wireless Rural Coverage 48
3.5 Rural Broadband and Healthcare 49
3.6 Rural Broadband and Business 50
3.7 Wireless Rural Broadband Demand 50
Part 4 Evolution & Options in Today's Wireless Networks 53

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