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App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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January 4, 2008 12:19 PM

Wireless Hits New Speed Record; Fiber Still Reigns Supreme

Hey look, 4G technology--one of the many new wireless standards in development--hit 173Mbps in a recent field trial.

That's great. Having faster wireless broadband would be a wonderful thing.

But every time I see a story like this I find myself grimacing as I worry what fuel it may add to the fire that someday we'll live in a world without wires.

So I can't help but continue to hammer on this point: wireless is essential for anywhere access to the Internet but it doesn't have sufficient capacity to be the primary conduit.

How do I know? Well, 173Mbps may sound like a lot but you can't forget that that's not per user that's per tower or node. So the more users that try accessing the Internet through a tower the lower the speeds they can realize.

I feel the same way when people start talking about the latest and greatest copper technologies. For example, DOCSIS 3.0 is being hailed as the savior of cable systems in the face of fiber to the home deployments like Verizon's FiOS. Sure it promises 100Mbps to the home, but getting their won't be free and the long-term outlook for capacity on copper is cloudy. The outlook is even more uncertain for technologies like Broadband over Power Lines, which are totally unproven in delivering 100Mbps speeds to homes over great distances.

Let's now look at this against the crystal clear backdrop of fiber. An optical fiber can carry not just megabits per second but gigabits even terabits (that's thousands and thousands of megabits). In the labs a single strand of fiber has shown sufficient capacity to support all the world's Internet traffic.

I mean, this is just such a no brainer to me: the Internet is fiber optics, so some day the goal should be to have a fiber optic cable to every house. No other last mile access technology offers the limitless, future-proof capacity of fiber, so unless you think demand for bandwidth is going to just stop the only way to look at this is that fiber to the home has to be the ultimate goal for any national broadband strategy.

For me that means the only question left to answer is whether we'll get these fiber optic connections in the next five years or the next fifty.

Again, this isn't an effort to discredit wireless and copper technologies, but instead an attempt to set wireless in its place as a complementary technology and to frame copper as a transitional technology relative to the eventual goal of a fiber pipe to every home.


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