Gigabit Broadband: Watching, Waiting, Wishing

With the current surge of Gigabit Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) deployments happening in the United States, and the resulting  1 Gigabit-per-second broadband services being offered, a lot of service providers are watching intently as they work through their own Gigabit plans. They are waiting for more data points regarding the tangible benefits being bestowed upon these broadband trail blazers. As they take stock of their current network capabilities, they are also wishing they could limit the inevitable network impacts and deployment costs tied to rolling out a wide-area Gigabit service to their subscriber base. FTTH Broadband, and more so Gigabit Broadband, comes with a cost. That said, not offering Gigabit Broadband comes with a cost as well.

So why Gig?

What are the tangible market drivers that are leading dozens of service providers to offer–and hundreds of communities to subscribe to–Gigabit Broadband? For me, there are four key drivers that push any network operator to invest in their network in order to offer new services – and Gigabit Broadband is no different. One could argue that in some ways it is a “poster child” of sorts for why innovate? Why invest? Why Gig?

  1. Economic and community development
    Broadband is as crucial to the lifeblood of a community as running water and reliable power. Dependable, ultra-fast broadband attracts new industries to town, supports higher wage jobs and underpins new educational, industrial and medical services advancements.
  1. Preparedness for future high bandwidth end-user applications
    It’s not all about supporting new, fatter UHD 4k video or unicast Over-the-Top (OTT) streaming being used by cord-cutters who are replacing their bandwidth-economizing broadcast TV. Cloud-based services architectures are highly disruptive and the bandwidth consuming innovation that will come from this will be mind-boggling.
  1. Competitive differentiation/market share capture
    Don’t wait – innovate. Avoid irrelevance by staving off the insurgence of Google, AT&T, CenturyLink, and Comcast. The last thing any service provider wants to hear is, “We already got Gig here – you’re too late. Move along.”
  1. Perceived leadership/marketing campaign to drive ‘halo effect.’ Subscribers choose progressive, leading companies even if they’re just choosing the base broadband package.

Applying Experience, Incorporating Wisdom

The pace of change in technology is accelerating faster than ever before, being driven by social change and the need for community development in a hyper-competitive, hyper-connected world. Broadband investment is shifting from service coverage to delivering super-fast broadband speeds to serve communities as they upgrade technology. It has taken our industry nearly a century to realize there is an infinite demand for bandwidth and we must stop forecasting future network needs based on today’s application requirements. Many of us believe our industry is part of something bigger than we might imagine and Gigabit Broadband will be an integral part of that something, whatever it will be.

Kurt Raaflaub 273x300 Gigabit Broadband: Watching, Waiting, Wishing

Kurt Raaflaub serves as ADTRAN’s senior manager of strategic solutions marketing, and has more than 20 years’ experience in telecom. He has global solutions marketing responsibility for SDN/NFV, Gigabit Broadband, Packet Opal, Carrier Ethernet-based Cloud Connectivity as well as managed/hosted ProCloud services delivery for residential, enterprise and backhaul markets. Prior to his current position, Raaflaub was responsible for directing ADTRAN’s Broadband, Carrier Ethernet and Packet Optical solutions marketing activities within ADTRAN’s Carrier Networks Division. In 2006, he joined ADTRAN from Nortel where for over a decade, he held various roles focused on marketing and managing new disruptive market opportunities.



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ADTRAN Senior Design Showcase: Innovation for the Future

The future of technology is upon us. Every day something new, advanced or just slightly different is being announced. While it generally comes from enterprises with generous R&D funds, this week it will come from universities—senior engineering students to be exact—who have a drastically reduced budget.

For nearly 48 hours, our ADTRAN campus will host the next generation of innovation with soon-to-be engineering professionals. Dozens of university seniors from seven US college campuses will converge in Huntsville, Alabama to network with ADTRAN engineers, learn about the field, and share their senior design projects. Three additional colleges from India and Germany will also participate, thanks to online, multicast video conferencing technology.

The Senior Design Showcase is an opportunity for students to present their capstone project, by combining skills gained over the semester, as well as knowledge learned throughout their college careers. But perhaps more importantly, it provides a forum for our company to connect with and maintain strong relationships with engineering and computer science-based universities.

For ADTRAN, our goal is to be innovative today while simultaneously supporting future innovation. Engineering students bring a fresh perspective and see technology in a different way. They understand what needs to be created vs. simply updated. By building relationships with engineering programs, we’re not only connecting with future patent-holders, we’re able to discover new ideas. While we would certainly love to have some of these bright minds join us at ADTRAN when they graduate, it’s truly about working together for the advancement of technology.

Designed to be a collaborative effort and not a competition, the ADTRAN Senior Design Showcase focuses on the creativity of each team rather than providing rules. The event will bring together Engineering and Computer Science teams from Auburn University, Tennessee Tech, University of Alabama-Huntsville, and University of Alabama as well as KMIT University and BITS-Piliani Hyderabad in India. Additionally, our ADTRAN-Germany team is hosting the University of Rostock in at the ADTRAN-Greifswald campus. Some examples of projects to be explored include:

  • A drone that automatically and autonomously cleans solar panels on top of buildings.
  • A fiber-optic switch that is integrated into automatic test suites to ensure high-speed Internet is always online for Gig-cities
  • An autonomous robot playing games that are generally played during car rides—including card games and Etch-A-Sketch
  • A rover mounted with a Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) system able to scan through the interior walls of a building to help fire rescue teams
  • New, novel approaches to data mining that help predict bug fix times via software engineering analytics.

Having students back on campus for the event reminds us that the next-generation of innovation can be anywhere. We are pleased to welcome them to ADTRAN and are excited to see how the week unfolds.

Kent Darzi is Engineering Director, Strategic and Global Development for ADTRAN

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Should I outsource my school’s Wi-Fi network?

Picking up from our last discussion around cloud wireless, let’s take a look at the specifics around when a school district should move forward with either an on-premises or managed Wi-Fi solution.

The Wi-Fi market is continuing to see incredible growth, with it projected to reach $6.7B by 2018, per Dell’Oro Group.  Nowhere is this growth more profound than in the education market. School systems are continuing to roll out new BYOD and 1:1 Computing programs, resulting in more mobile devices on the network, putting an incredible strain on both infrastructure and IT staff.

Schools need a top performing wired and wireless network for high bandwidth applications like YouTube in classrooms and cloud applications such as Moodle or Blackboard.  They also require centralized user and security policy administration to support learning initiatives from online testing to flipped classrooms and beyond.  Finally, there needs to be quick resolution to connectivity issues for staff and students.  Any downtime can result in lost productivity and frustrated students and teachers.

With all this in mind, when does it make sense for a school district to make the switch from an in-house Wi-Fi solution to a managed offering?  Key to this decision is to ask the following questions:

  • Single-site, Multi-site, and Multi-tenant Facilities – does the district have difficulty managing multiple buildings?
  • Wireless network expansion driven by BYOD – is the district able to keep pace with the number of new devices coming onto the network?
  • Limited IT resources – does the district have enough resources to manage the network?
  • Day-to-day maintenance/management – if the staff is limited, would districts benefit from offloading IT burdens and augment their existing resources to focus on what they do best—serve their students and faculty?
  • Wi-Fi Security – does the IT staff have real-time and historical reports and trends into network health, users, connected devices, capacity and usage? Can they make informed decisions on network investments to improve the user experience?

Critical to all of these questions is making sure the district also has the flexibility to go from an outsourced model to bringing management back in-house – especially, knowing that E-rate funding has no guarantee year after year. Also, most school districts do not want to get locked into a long term subscription model.

Schools that receive E-rate funding this year and choose ADTRAN ProCloud Wi-Fi need not worry about leveraging their Wi-Fi investment in the future, since they have the ability to bring the solution in-house via Bluesocket vWLAN and manage it themselves – when and if they are ready.

A school system’s first priority is students. Giving them an education that facilitates long term academic success while instilling confidence and critical thinking skills requires a modern curriculum and a dependable network. That’s why the network solution needs to be one that enriches this experience and puts learning above all.

Be sure to visit ADTRAN at the upcoming CoSN 2015 conference in Atlanta from March 16-19 to gain a better understanding of managed Wi-Fi and its benefits to advancing K-12 goals and initiatives.

Jason King is the director of marketing for the Bluesocket Business Group at ADTRAN. With over 15 years’ experience in the industry, he is responsible for the overall promotion and positioning of the company’s Wi-Fi solutions. Find him on Twitter <em>@jjking24


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The Benefit of Gigabit: Customer Insight

While the benefits of Gigabit deployments far outweigh any criticism, some skeptics question why companies would go to the trouble of rolling out ultra-fast broadband networks today. For those opponents, a recent announcement from Jackson Energy Authority (JEA), a municipal utility, should put to rest any concerns.

Just last week, it was announced that the city of Jackson, Tennessee and JEA have been named a US Ignite partner. The city wide fiber network provided by JEA, supports the community’s evolution into a globally connected commercial center.

Thanks to the announcement, JEA is attracting national attention as a direct result of its decision to upgrade its network  to deploy symmetrical Gigabit services to its 18,000 subscribers. Not only is JEA helping the local community prosper, but it’s being recognized for having the technology infrastructure in place to be an accelerator for economic, educational and community benefit.

Jackson Mayor Jerry Gist stated, “We compete against cities from across the country for economic development projects, and the recognition as a US Ignite city underscores the fact that Jackson is the best city for 21st century business and industrial recruitment due to the first-class fiber infrastructure that JEA has deployed.”

“The decision to deploy Gigabit services to our customers was easy. All we had to do was look at the incredible benefits, including stimulating economic development and how it could transform the community as a whole, to see that Gigabit was the way to go,” said Ben Lovins, senior vice president, telecom for Jackson Energy Authority. “The residential and business customers we talk to have high expectations for their Internet experience and this shows that we are on the right path to enabling future growth.”

Jackson Ignite – the city of Jackson and JEA’s partnership with US Ignite – delivers on the community evolution objectives from ADTRAN’s Enabling Communities, Connecting Lives campaign. So if after reading about the Jackson Ignite national partnership you’re still not convinced that Gigabit is valuable for the business case, continue checking with ADTRAN as more communities are set to be announced. Gigabit is the real deal and service providers are cashing in on new customers, new revenue opportunities and staying ahead of the competition.

Kevin Morgan is the Director of Marketing at ADTRAN and has over 25 years of advanced communications technology, fiber optic systems, and business product marketing experience and is the FTTH Council Vice Chair. 

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“And ponies! Free ponies for everyone!”

I had to laugh when I saw Marc Andreessen’s comment in a press release on “President Obama’s Plan to Regulate the Internet” issued by FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai’s office last week.  While most of the comments were along the lines of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, “global Internet will suffer”, lack of transparency and “an unusual attempt by a President to influence a legally independent agency”, I thought Andreessen’s “free ponies” comment pretty much sums up the current goat rodeo in Washington.

On Thursday February 26, we expect the FCC to agree to new rules that re-adopt and expand the previous Open Internet rules that were thrown out by the Court of Appeals in early 2014.   The previous rules were relatively simple and carried forward the policy of a “light regulatory touch” first articulated when Democrats controlled the FCC under President Clinton:

  • Transparency. Fixed and mobile broadband providers must disclose the network management practices, performance characteristics, and terms and conditions of their broadband services;
  • No blocking. Fixed broadband providers may not block lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices; mobile broadband providers may not block lawful websites, or block applications that compete with their voice or video telephony services; and
  • No unreasonable discrimination. Fixed broadband providers may not unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful network traffic.

These rules were all subject to “reasonable network management.”  The Court of appeals had vacated the discrimination/blocking rules, however, because the FCC claimed authority under Section 706 to adopt the rules, but those rules were “common carrier”-type regulations, which was inconsistent with the FCC’s classification of Internet access services as an “information service.”

In response to the court decision, the Commission originally proposed to tweak the rules so they would pass Court review consistent with the 2014 court decision and the FCC’s authority under Section 706.  Unfortunately, succumbing to political pressure, including unprecedented intervention by the White House, the FCC will decide instead to reclassify Internet access services as “telecommunications services” under Title II, and to apply the new rules equally to fixed and mobile broadband.  Such a reclassification does allow the FCC to impose utility-like regulations on Internet access providers, but also carries with it regulations applicable to telephone services dating back to 1934.  The FCC is attempting to limit the application of some of these anachronistic regulations by “forbearing,” but many of the more burdensome provisions — including after-the-fact rate regulation and the specter of class action lawsuits — remain.

The new rules specifically adopted in the FCC order to govern Internet access service would provide:

  • No Blocking: broadband providers may not block access to legal content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
  • No Throttling: broadband providers may not impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
  • No Paid Prioritization: broadband providers may not favor some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration – in other words, no “fast lanes.” This rule also bans Internet service providers (ISPs) from prioritizing content and services of their affiliates.
  • A Standard for Future Conduct: Because the Internet is always growing and changing, there must be a known standard by which to determine whether new practices are appropriate or not. Thus, there will also be a general Open Internet conduct standard that ISPs cannot harm consumers or edge providers.
  • Greater Transparency: The proposal enhances existing transparency rules, which were not struck down by the court.
  • Reasonable Network Management: For the purposes of the rules, other than paid prioritization, an ISP may engage in reasonable network management. This recognizes the need of broadband providers to manage the technical and engineering aspects of their networks.
  • Interconnection: For the first time the Commission would have authority to hear complaints and take appropriate enforcement action if necessary, if it determines the interconnection activities of ISPs are not just and reasonable, thus allowing it to address issues that may arise in the exchange of traffic between mass-market broadband providers and edge providers.

The Good

The good news is that the Tier 2 and Tier 3 service providers who are accustom to operating in a regulated environment should remain on track with their plans to leverage the Connect America Fund (CAF) subsidies. These subsidies provide funds to build out broadband networks to greater and greater speeds. The recent CAF 2 Order increased the required broadband speeds from 4/1Mbps to 10/1Mbps and the FCC recently changed the definition of broadband from 4/1Mbps to 25/3Mbps.

The Bad

The rules themselves create confusion because of their ambiguity.   An ISP contemplating a new offering cannot know whether the FCC will decide that the service “harms consumers or edge providers.”  For example, AT&T’s sponsored data plan, where the content provider pays the usage charges of the customer, has been challenged as violating “net neutrality,” despite the fact that it’s just like toll-free calls, which have been perfectly legal (and beneficial to businesses and consumers) since the 1960s.  In addition, the FCC would allow prioritization of “specialized services,” but that is another vague term.  In sum, the uncertainty of knowing what conduct/services may be deemed unlawful is likely to deter ISPs from making investments in new services.  The threat of after-the-fact rate regulation will also deter investment in new facilities.

The Ugly

The FCC’s rules are likely to be challenged at the Court of Appeals as there are significant problems with this FCC rulemaking.  On a number of occasions, the FCC had examined how to classify Internet access services, and each time they decided it was an “information service” and thus outside of Title II.  The FCC is reversing all of those previous decisions, even though none of the salient facts have changed.  In addition, there is a very difficult statutory problem with the FCC’s application of Title II to mobile broadband, because it is not connected to the Public Switched Network.  There may also be challenges to their forbearance decision, since the FCC is not following its own standards of undertaking a granular, market-by-market analysis.  On top of those substantive problems are the procedural irregularities, including the influence of the President (which is also the subject of a Congressional investigation).

Following the release of the Open Internet Order by the FCC, we anticipate that the Tier 1 Telcos, MSOs and Wireless industries will begin litigation. The FCC’s order will also be challenged by net neutrality advocates that want more extensive regulation, including unbundling.  We also believe that the FCC’s Order will be eventually found to be unlawful.  These industries will petition to stay the FCC Order but it is unlikely that tactic will be successful in the courts because of the high hurdle for such judicial relief.  In theory, Congress has been studying a legislative fix that would apply “light touch” regulations, but passage of any legislation these days is difficult, and would face a veto in any event.

The bottom line is that we expect the FCC decision on Network Neutrality to inject a lot of uncertainty and confusion into the broadband arena, although we won’t know important details of the new regulation until the text of the decision is released, which could take several months.  The long term problem we’re going to face as a telecommunications industry is that the FCC has, sadly, become just another pawn in the disconnected, partisan dog-and-pony show that Washington DC has become.

Gary Bolton is Vice President, Global Marketing for ADTRAN. 150x150 Gary Bolton “And ponies! Free ponies for everyone!”

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