Copper has hidden talents

Written by on November 18, 2014 in Opinion with 0 Comments

As we have noted elsewhere, it is not necessarily new technology that makes things faster or more comfortable. Trains are not noticeably faster than 30 years ago, hot air balloons are being deployed to bring internet to rural areas and copper is still king.

New technologies and business models are all too often touted as the only way forward. We must have fibre, we must have 4G, then 5G, we must partner with Digital Service Providers (DSPs) and operators must not become bit pipes.

Unless, of course, it makes sense to sweat existing assets.

Huawei has announced its SuperVector technology and has – in the lab and in conjunction with ‘European operators’ – achieved speeds of 400 Mbps over 100 metres of copper and 100 Mbps over 800 metres, which is still good enough for the much touted 4KTV services that will soon be in a Living Room near you.

Copper, it seems, is still an asset that has life left in it (remember when the copper owned by BT was worth more than BT?) Many operators are now offering ‘fibre optic’ services to homes, and yet there is seldom signs of fibre optic activity in the streets outside said homes. The fibre stops at the cabinet. The question is, ‘does it matter?’ Purists might argue that ‘Fibre to the Cabinet’ (FTTC?) is not Fibre to the Home (FTTH) but if the speed supplied enables the customer to do what he wants to do, which might include trying to actually see the difference in a range of High Definition TV systems, then what is the problem?

As operators think deeply about huge investments in new networks technology and new control techniques, in other parts of the same business, managers are still being asked to get more out of the existing assets, with less money to work with.

If it makes sense and the margins are there, a network that comprises FTTC, SuperVector copper technology to the home, universal WiFi to the window and a simple subscription based billing infrastructure, it might be the answer. The alternatives are expensive and complex.

The risk, of course, is that communications is then a commodity. But there are many markets which are commodities and a glance at the end of year figures of most will tell you that it works.

The answer, of course, will lie somewhere in the middle, and will be a spaghetti mixture of all sorts of technology. Which, in a few years time we will try and simplify again. And so it goes.

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About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .


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