The telecommunications industry is changing faster than ever before. The combined effects of Moore’s Law, the installation of fiber optic cabling throughout the world, and the improvement of DSL technology are paving the way for faster connectivity and increased use of cloud computing. In this article, I look at five emerging trends in the telecommunications, business services, and enterprise computing sectors.
Gigabit is the New Megabit for Connectivity
It was only a few years ago that medium to large businesses purchased a single T1 for connectivity, and the average residential or small business Internet service was provided via an ADSL connection offering a 6 Mbps download speed and less than 1 Mbps upstream. The cable industry responded by offering DOCSIS-based Internet connections with speeds up to 30 Mbps downstream and up to 10Mbps upstream. The war continued with DOCSIS 3.0 connectivity reaching marketed speeds of up to 100Mbps downstream. Fast forward to 2015 and symmetrical gigabit services are offered by several carriers including Google Fiber, AT&T, and CenturyLink for less than $150 per month. Akamai now reports that 34% of US broadband users now connect at speeds greater than 10Mbps (http://www.telecompetitor.com/akamai-average-u-s-broadband-speed-climbs-9-8-mbps/), a 40% increase of one year ago .
PON Technologies are Replacing Copper and are Becoming A More Cost Effective Tool to Serve Residences and Small to Medium Businesses
Maintaining and upgrading outside plant is one of the most expensive budget items for a wireline carrier, and when competitive pressure forces carriers to upgrade to fiber, they are looking for the most cost-effective way to provide the best customer experience. Current GPON technology provides 2.5Gbps in the downstream direction and 1Gbps in the upstream direction, which carriers split to offer paid speed tiers from 100Mbps to 1Gbps to up to 64 subscribers per port in most areas. Emerging technology such as NG-PON2 provides speeds up to 10Gbps in each direction and allows for the use of multiple wavelengths and time divisions (TWDM-PON). Because NG-PON2 provides increased bandwidth using existing fiber and the ability to dedicate wavelengths to certain applications, operators may look to NG-PON2 and future passive optical network technologies to serve businesses who want higher speeds in price-competitive markets.
SIP Trunking is Outpacing Legacy TDM Voice Services
Infonetics estimates that SIP trunking services brought in approximately $5 billion per year last year (http://www.infonetics.com/pr/2014/SIP-Trunking-Services-Market-Highlights.asp), and predicts that number will grow to $8 billion in 2018. This growth is fueled by decreasing costs of IP-based PBXs, declining availability of parts for TDM-based PBXs, and better connectivity to businesses. IP-based telephony increases worker mobility by allowing the use of PC and mobile-phone-based softphone applications and providing the ability to conditionally forward calls using web-based tools. With more capacity than traditional TDM circuits, better data connectivity, and more flexibility over TDM-based PBXs, the reasons many businesses are looking toward IP-based telephony for their next voice solution are clear.
Carrier Ethernet Paves the Way for Ethernet Ubiquity
Carrier Ethernet 2.0 (CE 2.0) provides standards for easily connecting single and multi-location businesses to the Internet and to each other with a large number of certified solutions from numerous vendors (http://www.metroethernetforum.org/carrier-ethernet/carrier-ethernet-and-ce-2-0). Among the main advantages of CE 2.0 and Carrier Ethernet in general is the ability to reach an end-user with native layer-2 Ethernet using almost any physical layer technology. This conserves IP addresses, hardware and routing resources on expensive edge routers, and simplifies network topologies. It also provides the ability to enforce quality of service by marking traffic with standard markings such as DSCP and 802.1P. The cost savings and uniformity of an all-Ethernet service delivery network allows carriers to provide more efficient and reliable connectivity to the Internet and public and private clouds.
Faster, More Reliable WiFi Technology is Increasing Connectivity Throughout Businesses
Newly released IEEE 802.11ac Wave 1 WiFi technology provides actual throughput to wireless clients approaching 1Gbps. With near-gigabit WiFi connectivity and a rapid increase in the average broadband connection, connectivity to the cloud and the Internet reaches more places than ever before. In addition, faster, more reliable WiFi provides new revenue opportunities for many verticals including hospitality, dining, and retail through the use of new tools like retail analytics. Managed WiFi solutions now separate the data plane from the control plane, which increases reliability by allowing the management system for a multi-site, multi-AP WiFi deployment to reside anywhere, including public data centers.
In closing, speeds exceeding 1Gbps to homes and businesses, IP telephony, Ethernet ubiquity, and better WiFi connectivity all contribute to a rapidly-evolving telecommunications industry and a better user experience. While these trends are here to stay for present-day, we can only look forward to the innovations the future will hold.
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