In Los Angeles we are pretty happy with our Android phones, iPhones, and other smart handheld devices. We can buy EVDO card for our laptops, and now 4G cards are starting to POP up in some locations. In Jakarta people laugh at such nonsense. With high speed wireless infrastructure covering HSPA Sales Media in Jakarta Mall Ambassadorover 95% of the addressable Indonesian population, the country has leap-frogged not only America, but also much of Asia in delivering high speed wireless service.

If you take a walk through Jakarta’s Mall Ambassador you are presented with a dizzying array of high speed wireless access options for both smart phones and USB flash modems – and oh yes, even EVDO if that is what you really want. So you select your option, is it HSPDA? HSPA? HSPA+? In Jakarta you can easily buy HSPA+ flash modems and base stations that actually deliver between 21~42Mbps to an end user device.

While the highest speeds may not be affordable to the masses, nearly all smartphones and base station are more than adequate for web browsing and streaming media. In fact, Indonesia has the largest number of mobile FaceBook users in the world, and that number continues to grow at an astonishing rate, as more Indonesians invest in internet-enabled devices as a tool for their future.

But let’s go beyond the city limits of Jakarta, and look at what this means toHSPA Flash Modem Sales Jakarta other rural and remote parts of the country.

If 95% of the population is covered by wireless antennas, and all of those antennas are capable of supporting at least some level of Internet access, then the need for laying copper cable to end users in remote locations becomes less important. An HSPDA base station that connects to a 7.2Mbps data stream can easily connect a LAN of dumb terminals (NetBooks) to a school in remote parts of Sumatra or Papua. eLearning, including remote transmission of lectures, lessons, podcasts, or other means of delivering knowledge becomes possible, giving a level academic playing field to anybody in the country.

City offices, commercial businesses, and even individual homes can connect to the HSPDA signal, allowing Internet access with the same or better performance many users experience with cable modems or organizational LANs connecting to a local ISP or carrier. Add a bit of cloud computing offering a suite of hosted SaaS applications and secure storage in a data center available users throughout the country, and we have the beginnings of national access to the 4th Utility (marriage of broadband access and cloud computing resources) in Indonesia.

WarNet in Samarinda IndonesiaBut probably the most interesting, and useful example of delivering Internet access to those who need it most is the WarNet. The Warnet is the Indonesian version of an Internet Café. In many rural communities and urban inner-city areas people do not have the money to afford buying their own computer, or do not have the ability to connect to the Internet from their homes or offices. The WarNet may connect a small Internet Kiosk to wireless Internet in a remote location, offer some basic printing services, and that kiosk becomes a social, educational, business, and entertainment hub for small communities.

Schools could follow the same model as WarNets, connecting to broadband wireless through a local base station and extending an access LAN to student workstations and terminals. Again, with eLearning those terminals can be dumb, with the applications and student working storage on a data center hosted platform.

HSDPA Base station in JakartaHigh speed broadband wireless is effectively bringing the Internet to nearly all Indonesians. Now the effort needs to be making access devices more affordable and more available, as well as producing high quality content and content delivery into the wireless networks. As most of the wireless networks are still not exceeding ~30% of their transmission capacity at peak, there is ample room for growth.

Backbone fiber networks owned by the wireless carriers and wholesale providers will continue to expand, enhancing the wireless operator’s ability to increase their capacity to meet the potential of future wireless technologies such as LTE and 4G. And Indonesians will continue to approach the Internet’s technical edge.

Not bad Indonesia… not bad at all

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The Europeans mock us. The Koreans boast a claim they are the world’s most wired country. Finland is bringing broadband to reindeer. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published in their 2009 statistics the U.S. now ranks 15th among the group’s 30 member countries for broadband subscriptions. This is down from 12th in their previous study. No way!

Is the United States actually that far behind the world in broadband deployment? Should the home of Cisco Systems, Brocade, IBM, and HP hang our heads in shame at our inability to deliver a world class communications infrastructure?

Geography and Statistics

Well, we shouldn’t hang our heads in shame, however there is ample opportunity to further develop our national broadband infrastructure.

Looking at the following table you can easily see the US has a huge landmass, with much lower than Euro-Asian average population density. Kudos to Canada and the Nordic countries, although let’s be honest – 90% of Canada’s population is within 100km of the US border, and most of that is in cities. Same for the Nordics, and Iceland is not what you would normally refer to as a large landmass.

The US is big, and other countries with a similar landmass such as Russia and China did not even qualify for the top 35 countries in the study

Broadband Access in OECD Countries(From OECD Study dated June 2009)

Taking Inventory of the US Telecom Toolkit

Now let’s brush off the “feel good” paragraph and get back to the real issue. Making broadband accessible to every person in the United States who wants or needs access to network-enabled applications and resources.

We have a fairly robust toolkit of telecom resources available to deliver our bits:

  • ILECs (Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers)
  • CLECs (Competitive Local Exchange Carriers)
  • Long Distance Carriers
  • Cable Television Service Providers
  • Cable (fiber optic) wholesale infrastructure providers (may also provide other services)
  • Wireless Broadband providers (including mobile telephone operators)
  • Utility operators (such as power companies and water companies)

In a country as large as the US, the long distance carriers and wholesale cable providers deliver infrastructure that connects New York to Los Angeles, and all others in between with high performance cable infrastructure. All other service providers deliver either a specific service to regional markets or end users. Some may contribute to “overlay” networks which provide a higher level of product or service to users throughout the market, such as Internet services, telephone services, television and “triple-play” (video, voice, Internet).

Sounds Easy? Just connect all this stuff together and the USA will be back on top of the broadband podium with a gold medal.

But…. The US is an open, competitive market. As all the US carriers (with the exception of some utilities) are privately (not government) owned, the objective is to make money for shareholders. This means cooperation with other companies is a mere short-term convenience, with no incentive for investing in any infrastructure that does not meet a business plan for satisfying the demands of investors. Altruism or working for the common good is reduced to marketing hype – and has very little basis in the reality of America’s communications infrastructure.

Maybe stimulus money or additional tax credits for companies to cooperate and meet national objectives? Unlikely, as most states are already suffering a great deal from the loss of telephone tax revenues (you’ve got to love VoIP), and to get into the stimulus business you will need to means to hire a legion of lawyers, lobbyists, and prepare for a long time horizon to see any support. That narrows it down to the ILECs, long distance carriers, and wholesalers. Same applies for money available through the Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) and the NTIA Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP).

Thus, my favorite little town of Baudette(Minnesota) is not likely to be a really high priority for any serious infrastructure development. Yes, companies like Time Warner have delivered cable TV and cable modems to the market, however if you do not have access to the cable (which pretty much follows the state highways, and does not venture too far off the asphalt), chances are you will not be receiving multiple streams of HD video any time soon.

There are many people in Northern Minnesota who don’t spend any more time online than they have to. They would rather be in a boat with their line in the water. If broadband could help them catch fish, they would be all for it. (from Minnesota Brown)

This also begs the question – if people really want to be wired, maybe they will migrate closer to cities which offer much more robust urban Map of Baudette Minnesotainfrastructure, and those who want to spend their life fishing can do so in peace?

Good, as long as they do not choose to reproduce, in which case the children deserve to have the same access to global information ands communications technology needed to ensure they are competitive with children in Korea and Amsterdam.

Hunter Newby, CEO of Allied Fiber reminds us that “We here in the USA are destined for a major change in our communications infrastructure.  An entirely new physical layer design needs to be rolled out in the USA if we are ever to reach broadband speeds and penetration like that of the other civilized and advanced countries in the world.”

Allied Fiber was created to “address America’s need to eliminate obstacles for broadband access, wireless backhaul and lower latency through new, next generation long haul dark fiber construction with sound principles and an open access philosophy.”

Newby continues “The USA is much larger than South Korea, or Japan, yet we are always stacked against those “countries” and others that are equally as small in geography. We will never reach the speeds, services, applications, or processing power of the people if we do not match their National physical layer network designs – designs that have incorporated wireless and fiber for backhaul for many years.”

Big, Fat, Dumb Pipes

In the 1990s companies such as Level 3 Communications used marketing taglines with the theme “bandwidth is like water,” and fiber infrastructure should be considered “big, fat, dumb pipes.” If the philosophy had survived investors, Wall Street analysts, and the desire to increase cash flow by adding higher level value added services (such as voice, Internet, TV, etc), the US might have a very high performance Allied Fiber's Network Philosophyphysical infrastructure in place that served as a neutral conduit for regional and local carriers and service providers to deliver broadband closer to the edge – or end users.

Companies such as Allied Fiber hope to bring that idea back to reality, providing the United States and Canada a very high performance, cost-effective trans-continental backbone allowing regional and local service providers and easy way to bring their edge resources to the North American “cloud.” Wireless companies can focus on delivering transmission to end users from the tower, and Allied Fiber will connect towers, regional networks, access networks, and value-added service networks (such as Internet providers) on a national scale.

A Happy Broadband Ending

One bright spot in the discussion is broadband wireless. The US carriers are pushing deployment of LTE and 4G, further incorporating broadband support via emerging technologies such as MIMO (Multiple In – Multiple Out) antennas which bring wireless up to the Gigabit/second level on individual end-user devices. This will reduce the need for fiber optic or high speed cable infrastructure deployment into both rural and urban areas with obsolete or decrepit building/street infrastructure.

“(This) isn’t about technology, (this) is about preserving small town communities by using technology to allow them to survive in a world that is changing. It’s about allowing kids to build careers in their local community, not just find a job. (Ross Williams – Minnesota Brown)

All new communications technologies being delivered by Verizon use Internet Protocols, including wireless telephone service, and incorporating IPv6 into the basic network. A combination of their FiOS (fiber optic to the home) product and high performance LTE=>4G wireless deployments will make up a lot of ground in the US.

Add a national high performance backbone network connecting the whole North American mess via Allied Fiber, and the US has a pretty good chance at jumping into the top 5 in OECDs broadband deployment listing. And Baudette’s culture and global presence is preserved.

Gregg Nobel loves wireless Internet. He talks about technologies such as MIMO (Multiple-In, Multiple Out) that will help him deliver high speed, broadband Internet services through the northeast with refreshing enthusiasm. Gregg shows feverish dedication to ensuring fellow residents and children of the state have an equal chance to compete with the Koreans, Scandinavians, and Virginians who may currently hold an advantage due to ubiquitous access to high speed broadband Internet.

Is it WiMax that will hold the answer? LTE? 802.11n?

Not important. The important thing is to lay the pipe needed to accomplish his objective of leaving no Massachusettsan, Vermonter, Connecticuter, or New Hampshirite behind in the race for achieving the American dream.

Gregg is the Business Development Manager for GAW (Great Auk Wireless) High-Speed Internet, a wireless infrastructure provider based in Vermont. They not only aggressively deliver high-speed broadband to towns offering a good opportunity for revenues, they also work with local communities and municipalities to bring easy access to high speed Internet to rural communities and areas not easily served by cable or telephone utilities.

US Internet Wireless in Minneapolis has a similar approach. Working with the city, USI Wireless is deploying high speed Internet services from a central location atop the IDS Tower in downtown Minneapolis. As USI Wireless has good line of sight from the tower, it deployed 55x 80 Megabits per second “DragonWave” antenna systems in an omni-directional pattern. Network traffic is backhauled to the 511 Building in downtown Minneapolis, which is a small carrier hotel with around 30 networks present for interconnection.

The city of Minneapolis supports USI Wireless with an arrangement allowing them to access city-owned conduits and access points throughout the city to allow further expansion of their wireless infrastructure. Additional wireless access point

Discussions with the USI Wireless representative at IT Expo West in Los Angeles this week revealed some additional interesting points. While we might believe that wireless access is most attractive to yuppies and higher income demographics, the reality is most of their subscribers are inner-city and under-privileged children from the urban centers in north Minneapolis.

This demographic was reinforced by Rudy Garza, a education and community services advocate from South Gate (an urban center in S.E. Los Angeles). Mr. Garza agreed that having wireless broadband access within an under privileged community can only help give kids one more tool that may push them over the fence post on the side of a more productive life than otherwise probable without Internet access.

MIMO-AntennaHow it is done

There are several competing standards for wireless network access. The most common, 802.11n (WiFi), is most well known as being the type wireless access point most people are now putting into their homes and offices. 802.11n wireless access points incorporate internal MOSI (Multiple out, Single In) antennas, allowing the wireless device to transmit several different wireless signals, and the end user devices will be able to choose the most optimal signal from those transmitted from the access point.

802.11n does support MIMO (Multiple In, Multiple Out) signaling, however today most end user devices are not set up with multiple antennas. Today 802.11n access points can easily transmit at bandwidths up to 70Mbps up to around 300ft. From that point the signal begins to degrade, and access speeds will drop.

With full MIMO deployment 802.11n will support single capacity streams of up to 600Mbps per access device.

In a city deployment using 802.11n you can easily expect to support around 150 users with reasonable internet access speeds, although not at bandwidth adequate to handle applications like television and high speed video. The answer is with correct city funding, or subscriber fees, more antennas and access point can be deployed to increase the amount of bandwidth available for each end device, as well as extend coverage to more locations. However the bottom line with 802.11n is you still have some level of limitation on distance and the number of supportable subscribers.

WiMAX

WiMAX is an alternative to WiFi, although in general much more expensive. Many networks are considering deployment of WiMAX, which also can take advantage of MIMO. The most well known networks in the US using WiMAX are those deployed by Sprint and Clearwire (now merged). Both have extensive networks, and in the case of Sprint the deployment is supported through use of their existing cellular towers, and high capacity fiber optic lines for backhaul of wireless internet traffic to Sprint’s central offices.

LTEa and 4G

Other than Sprint, in the US most carriers are considering a phased deployment of LTEa (Long Term Evolution – advanced) and 4G (4th Generation Wireless) throughout their existing cellular networks. Most of these companies are currently using the cellular EV-DO (Evolution – Data Optimized), which will be supplemented and then replaced by more powerful LTEa and 4G wireless systems.

LTEa will allow for 100Mbps in individual devices which are moving or mobile, and up to 1Gbps for stationary devices. When the LTEa/4G networks are fully deployed, nearly any device which can access a wireless network may be able to use the new wireless standard. LTEa/4G can take full advantage of MIMO, and further allow end user devices to aggregate bandwidth being transmitted from multiple antennas, and antenna sources. Devices will also become available with multiple antennas embedded in the device, such as telephone handsets built with multiple antennas within the handset.

Perhaps the most exicting thing about further development of MIMO, LTEa/4G, more powerful WiFi, and even WiMAX, is that the bandwidth and access speeds will soon be high enough to support everything from HD-TV to high performance Internet access, regardless if in a city or rural environment.

In the Meantime…

It will take until 2015 for companies such as Verizon to fully deploy their next generation wireless networks. In the meantime we will still look to companies like GAW and USI Wireless to continue bringing broadband Internet access to both the countryside, as well as inner-city areas. We need to support their efforts, and efforts of those like GAW and USI Wireless who are working to deliver network access in the towns of Iowa, New Mexico, the south side of Chicago, or any other place our fellow citizens need network access.

John Savageau, Long Beach

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