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Landlines. Accept no Substitutes.

Recently, the NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association issued a report on landlines prepared by tech consulting company Vantage Point. The result, Wireless Broadband Not a Viable Substitute for Wireline Broadband, details why every community – urban, suburban and rural – should have wired broadband.

Although wireless continues to grow, “... most consumers and policymakers view mobile broadband connections as being complementary, rather than a replacement for, wireline broadband connections.”

Some people, primarily for economic reasons, rely solely on wireless for their personal broadband connection,  yet most people understand that wireline provides a better broadband connection. Moreover, “In places where broadband is available, the Federal Communications Commission has shown that urban and rural users adopt broadband at the same rate.”

The reason is simple:

“Education, healthcare, banking, entertainment, and many other industries rely on broadband to deliver their services. As new applications and services are developed, the broadband demands for both residential and commercial consumers continue to increase rapidly. Today, broadband providers offer their services using a variety of networks based on either landline or wireless technologies.”

The NTCA paper defines high-quality broadband by five characteristics:

·      High Speed
·      Low Latency (minimal delay)
·      High Capacity
·      High Reliability (few outages)
·      Economical and Scalable (upgrade as broadband demand increases)

Wireless frequently fails to meet these criteria. Often, it suffers from insufficient spectrum. “In addition, weather and obstacles, such as terrain, attenuate the wireless signal thus limiting availability and reducing reliability. Finally, the speed of the network is a function of the number of users and the proximity of those users to the wireless tower.”

And, the attempt to provide wireless subscribers with more bandwidth is vividly reflected in overall costs. As the report details:

“The wireless network was designed to have a high probability of delivering 4 Mbps and allow customers to occasionally burst to 10 Mbps. Each customer on the FTTP network will receive 1 Gbps service no matter how many customers are using the network because it is not oversubscribed between the customer and the central office. When comparing the Capacity Cost, the FTTP network costs approximately $5 compared to between $280 and $710 for the wireless network.”

Wireless carriers are already aware that their service carries less, carries it slower, and costs more. That’s why “... wireless carriers are building more towers with fiber optic backhaul to meet the broadband needs of their customers. In effect, wireless networks are incorporating landline technologies into their networks because of the wireline network’s ability to offer higher broadband transport capacity at a lower cost.”

Wireline’s significantly reduced costs mean that, when scarce public funds are involved in build-out and maintenance, “It would be short-sighted and expensive if a broadband network required significant upgrades or had to be replaced altogether before the end of its economic life simply because it can no longer meet customers’ broadband demands.”

In fact, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler knows that only wireline – particularly fiber optic wireline – can meet subscribers’ data needs. Wheeler said:

“In the end, at this moment, only fiber gives the local cable company a competitive run for its money. Once fiber is in place, its beauty is that throughput increases are largely a matter of upgrading the electronics at both ends, something that costs much less than laying new connections.”

NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association (website)
Vantage Point Solutions (website)

Wireless Broadband is Not a Viable Substitute for Wireline Broadband (Report, Vantage Point Solutions, Mar. 2015)