Broadband, 4G Opening the Network Fast Lane to Consumers, Enterprises

SPECIAL REPORT: While some U.S. enterprises and consumers benefit from high-speed networks, wireless broadband must be truly pervasive nationwide to give equal access to all.

It was only a generation ago that an AT&T Bell System monopoly—which had stifled telecommunication innovation for 40 years because it set the standards and brooked no competition—stymied development in telecommunications.

It held that monopoly until it was broken by MCI Communications in the 1970s. Then came the historic antitrust litigation that eventually led to AT&T being broken up into "Baby Bells" in 1982, it was only then that the telecommunications industry was able to start innovating again. The result led to mobile phones within five years and to the Internet within a decade.

The pace of innovation in the telecom business took off back then, and it hasn’t slowed. Today, three basic trends in wireless communications based on new developments in bandwidth, software, services and mobile devices are allowing users to gain hefty improvements in performance.

1. High-speed, gigabit broadband is on track to become as ubiquitous as the mobile devices that access it 24/7 all around the world. Sources tell eWEEK that five years from now, it will be commonplace.

2. 4G LTE connectivity, while sometimes downplayed by some wireless service providers who aren't in the Long Term Evolution (LTE) game, is available and delivering its promised performance. This connectivity will make a substantial difference in service levels in the future.

3. High-speed wireless providers are branching out and investing in new spinoff businesses (namely cloud services) that are clear indicators that the industry is healthier than it has ever been. Growth in third-world countries is spurring this optimism.

What's next? Let's take a magnifying glass to each observation.

Observation No. 1: Broadband Eventually Will Be Everywhere

Everybody has an interest in this, ranging from the individual consumer to the highest levels of government. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski, during his remarks Jan. 18 at the U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting, called for all 50 states having at least 1-gigabit broadband community by 2015.

Genachowski said that establishing gigabit communities nationwide would accelerate the creation of a critical mass of markets and innovation hubs with ultra-fast Internet speeds and challenged broadband providers and state and municipal community leaders to come together to meet what the FCC is calling the "Gigabit City Challenge."

Speeds of 1G bps are approximately 100 times faster than the average fixed high-speed Internet connection. At gigabit speeds, connections can handle multiple streams of large-format, high-definition content like online video calls, movies and immersive educational experiences. Today, approximately 42 communities in 14 states are served by ultra-high-speed fiber Internet providers, according to the Fiber to the Home Council. More are in the planning stages.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...