During 2016 we experienced a surge in demand for higher capacity networks, fuelled by an increased uptake of cloud services, smartphone proliferation and a drive for more unified communications.
With IP traffic globally expected to increase nearly threefold over the next five years, and mobile data traffic due to increase eightfold during the same period, this demand will only continue in 2017. As a result, operators are coming under increasing pressure to enhance their networks. However, to create an economically feasible business case for investment, network efficiency will be essential.
Investment in enhancing networks, particularly in developing nations, will be hugely supported by stabilising commodity prices. In recent years, infrastructure investment in a number of markets has fallen into a deep freeze due to the crash in commodity prices and associated currency fluctuations. Fortunately this freeze is now starting to thaw, and operators are demonstrating much greater willingness to invest. This in turn will enable a wide range of innovative new projects to come to life, such as greater utilisation of the sub-sea cabling now installed across many developing markets.
Until recently, the extent to which sub-sea bandwidth can penetrate inland has been hindered by poor infrastructure. As a result, the enormous potential of sub-sea cables has not been felt universally. However, as cost restrictions lift, and more efficient technology becomes available, an increasing number of operators will finally be able to utilise sub-sea cable landing stations to distribute high capacity connectivity from coastal regions across entire countries, unlocking their full potential. Operators already started to take major steps towards this in 2016, with InterCEL + (a subsidiary of Expresso Telecoms Group) announcing the launch of a breakthrough wireless network in Guinea to distribute high-capacity broadband from the ACE (Africa Coast to Europe) submarine fibre system to major urban and business regions throughout the nation. With networks such as these expected to drive unprecedented socio-economic benefits, we are likely to see many more projects follow suit in 2017.
However, for projects like this to become a reality, and for operators to successfully grow their networks, cost effective business cases must be adopted. In 2017, we therefore expect an increasing number of operators to utilise ultra-efficient wireless technologies for both enterprise access and backhaul. The opportunity these technologies present was recently analysed by Real Wireless, which reported that the latest licensed point-to-multipoint (PMP) microwave solutions can reduce backhaul total cost of ownership savings by as much as 50 percent compared to point-to-point. In the case of CBNL’s own VectaStar solution, these cost savings sit alongside a licensed grade of service that can scale to 14.4Gbps per hub site. Real Wireless also found licensed PMP can have similar benefits for enterprise access, reporting that for the same investment over a five year period, PMP can enable an ISP to connect 67 percent more customers and generate 1.8x higher return on investment than PTP.
The acceleration of new infrastructure projects is likely to be supported by an increased drive from regulators to find ways to maximise spectrum assets for the good of their country. We have already seen regulators support the use of more efficient technologies over the last year to help with this objective, making great strides to bridge the digital divide that exists across developing markets. Broadly speaking, regulators’ goals are to power more efficient use of spectrum for the common good, realise a fair price for it and make sure that it supports innovation and fairness across different users. Regulators will be thus able to make the most efficient use of national spectrum assets and drive maximum socioeconomic benefits for the country as a whole. This will result in many thousands more people, homes and businesses benefitting from better broadband and mobility services. As broadband penetration and capacity is intrinsically linked to economic growth, the importance of this cannot be underestimated.
Regulatory changes, increased investment and the use of more innovative and efficient technologies is set to make 2017 a pivotal year. From CBNL’s own experience in working with over 100 operators across 48 countries, we’ve seen a clear change in operator mind-sets, and a real willingness to invest in cost-effective solutions to enhance and grow networks. Through utilising ultra-efficient wireless solutions that can deliver high-bandwidth services, such as PMP microwave, operators can expand coverage to under-served regions, while simultaneously enhancing capacity to address new market opportunities. With such exciting changes on the horizon, we’re looking forward to what 2017 has in store.
John Naylon is the CTO and founder of CBNL.