Over the recent years, the broadband industry has seen improvements albeit not as revolutionary as in the past decades. Most of which are innovations that spelled advantages for telcos and consumers. Below are some of the most notable innovative developments in the broadband market.
- Next-Gen Fiber Technology
Gigabit internet is becoming more popular or sought after. As fiber networks expand, consumers get to enjoy internet connection speeds as fast as 10Gbps. However, this superfast speed is by no means the most that can be achieved with already existing technologies. A partnership between Nokia and NBN-Australia has successfully run a trial of the next generation of fiber technology that can reach speeds of up to 102Gbps (in a laboratory, controlled environment). This makes use of Nokia’s universal NG-PON fiber technology. It converges TWDM/PON, XGS-PON, and GPON technologies on the same fiber line. This can allow the dynamic provision of data capacity on the network, providing operators new options to address changing user needs flexibly. The next generation of fiber internet connection is definitely worth looking forward to.
- Enhanced Customer Experience
The spirit of innovation can also be observed in the way companies handle their customers. The goal is to make it easier for customers to interact with their ISPs by improving the way payments, inquiries, complaints, and requests for assistance are handled; and by providing extra services. A local NZ broadband provider offers an app that comes with a number of functions useful to customers. This app allows customers to set different connection modes (gaming, streaming, or downloading) so they can achieve optimum connection with respect to the online activity they are doing. It also has push notifications and integrates a customer referral function that lets existing customers earn a $20 credit for every new customer referred.
- Distributed MA5800 Access Platform
Huawei in 2016 won the Best Fixed Broadband Innovation award (given by Broadband Awards of the Broadband World Forum) for its MA5800 access platform. MA5800 is an open and programmable software and hardware framework that enables distributed architecture capable of supporting smooth capacity expansion. It is capable of providing UHD or 4K video services to 16,000 households at the same time, at setup that will likely become common in the next 5 to 10 years. This platform also makes it possible to move to 100G PON from 10G PON or 40 PON without the need for platform replacement, which translates to over 30% in infrastructure investment savings for internet service providers.
- Pre5G Massive MIMO
Another Chinese telecommunications equipment manufacturer, ZTE, received a Best Wireless Broadband Innovation award also in 2016 at the Broadband World Forum in London. The award was for its Pre5G Massive Multiple Input Multiple Output technology, which is seen as a solution for the internet’s “last mile problem.” This technology improves internet access as it enables a more competitive access rate (as compared to DSL and VDSL) without the need to invest in fiber-to-home networks. It allows farther internet service coverage by increasing spectral efficiency 4 to 6 times in comparison to existing 4G networks. It is compatible with 4G terminals so it can be deemed as a highly practical solution for fixed network carriers and mobile carriers.
- Innovative Pricing, New Internet Services, and Partnerships
Not all innovations in the broadband industry pertain to the technologies that enable internet connections. There have also been pricing-related innovations observed in the past years. From the flat rates for different internet connection speeds, several services have been developed to allow consumers to pay only for the services they need. Now, internet services can be charged on a per-usage basis, prepaid (with various promos), or in prepaid-postpaid hybrid schemes. On the other hand, aside from the traditional speed-based plans, many ISPs also offer social media plans, WhatsApp and other online messenger plans, email plans, VoIP plans, as well as separate plans for accessing premium content. Numerous promos and pricing strategies have been introduced to provide internet connection at more affordable rates. Moreover, partnerships with telcos have become more popular based on revenue sharing, co-marketing and cross-promotional partnerships, or other purposes.
- Zero-Rated Traffic
Zero-rated traffic refers to access to specific websites or online services for free. One good example for this is free Facebook, which is particularly big in developing countries like the Philippines. Zero-rated traffic allows some companies or startup service providers to partner with telcos to be able distribute their content to a wider audience or to more quickly grow their popularity. Not everyone, however, is supportive of the zero-rated traffic scheme. Net neutrality advocates, in particular, warn of potential abuse or disadvantages this scheme can create. There’s the fear that zero-rate traffic can be used by larger companies to push their agenda or give undue advantage for the content or services they favor. Companies that provide internet services, in particular, may use this scheme to create an advantage for their subsidiary or affiliate businesses over their competitors.
In case you are wondering why zero-rated traffic is being considered as an innovation, here’s a brief explanation. It’s related to innovative pricing, particularly in the advent of usage-based pricing. The zero-rated traffic model can be used to allow customers to access basic/popular sites or services such as Google (and its related services), Facebook, YouTube, and news sites without counting the corresponding data consumption against their monthly data cap or limit. Zero-rated traffic hence can be used as a tool to convince potential customers to sign up for a broadband plan or to avail of a prepaid internet service.
These innovations in both technology and business strategies are certainly a boon to the broadband market. The development of new technologies lead to better internet connections while allowing internet service providers to reach more customers without requiring major investments. Ultimately, they benefit customers through faster and better internet connection without the dramatic price increases.