Monday, June 14, 2004

Lucky warns of end-user broadband expectations

EE Times -Lucky warns of end-user broadband expectations

By Loring Wirbel
EE Times
March 31, 2004 (8:00 PM EST)

SAN FRANCISCO - Former Bellcore and Telcordia Research head Robert Lucky warned of the end-user expectations for 'free' service as a key factor affecting future telecom recovery.

At the keynote speech Wednesday (March 31) for the Communication Design Conference, Lucky said that free services have different and sometimes contradictory meanings in wireline and wireless environments. Using the example of Voice Over Internet Protocol's impact on circuit-switched voice service, Lucky said that the telecom market's primary problem is that 'no one knows what anything costs.'

'Telecom may be heading the way of DRAMs, where the price is set by the most idiotic competitor,' Lucky said. 'It's a race to the bottom, and the bottom in this case is free service.'

Lucky said that he was concerned that VoIP service providers like Vonage and Skype were forcing incumbent carriers to offer free VoIP services, "like lemmings going into the sea." It may be true that end-to-end IP networks offer slightly lower costs than circuit-switched networks, he said, but user expectations of a free lunch mean that no one pays for infrastructure maintenance.

Lucky said that even though he spent his career in the telephony realm dominated by a centralized Advanced Intelligent Network, he believed in the inevitability of a dumb central fabric and intelligent end nodes. The overall costs may be more in a connectionless packet-switched network, he said, but the empowerment provided to end users makes IP a better system " provided end users realize that some costs must be borne by users and service providers to maintain backbones of the system.

One power of wireless networks, he said, is that they can come closer to a true free network, albeit not in the model of auctioning licensed spectrum. The 3G auctions in Europe ended up costing European carriers more than it would have cost to provide fiber to every end user in Europe, he said.

The real advantage of wireless networks will come in next-generation cognitive radio, adaptive antennas, MIMO systems, ultra-wideband systems, and other technologies that assume that waves in the same frequency band are not interferers " interference is merely a property of the receiver design. With broad spectrum re-use, future wireless services will win out by coming closer to the user's expectation of virtually free provisioning of service.

But will broadband growth slow in the future? Lucky said he saw some market saturation already becoming apparent in Asia, particularly in Korea and China. If bandwidth, storage, and processing are close to free, he said, then content will have to be the driver. Based on current digital rights management policies of organizations like Motion Picture Association of America and Recording Industry Association of America, he said, interest in broadband services will slow up, and citizens will be left with the fox (owners of content rights under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act) guarding the henhouse.

Two social visions are competing in deciding telecom's future, Lucky said. The "field of dreams" camp believes that end users should simply be provided with 100 Mbits/sec per user, and applications will emerge through capability. Social engineering camps believe that social goals, such as the desire to have half of all workers be telecommuters, should drive broadband policy. In either event, better models of how costs are borne by society must help determine policy, he said.

"We still can't say for sure, were we hit by a truly perfect storm, or are the characteristics of the telecommunications business just no good any more?" Lucky said.

Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?