By: Chun-Ling Woon
As nations and network operators consolidate infrastructure to create even larger public networks capable of delivering greater capacity, there are places all over the planet where broadband access via a single, nationalized network is unrealistic. These are places that, whether by choice or necessity, people and businesses are located and those people and businesses require communication connectivity just like they require water, power, and transportation. And just like water, power, and transportation; these individuals and businesses have no illusion that they will have access to the same services at the same price as someone located in a city. There is no interstate highway connecting employees to an off-shore oil platform and thereâ€™s no fiber ring connecting cattle ranches in the outback of Australia. Why? Because it costs too much.
Operators calculate the cost per home passed and itâ€™s an important metric. The cost to connect 100 customers in a six story apartment building is significantly less than the cost to connect 100 customers scattered across the Serengeti. Any construction project has three key elements â€“ time, quality, and cost. The rule of thumb is that you can only have two of the three. If you want it fast and cheap, the quality wonâ€™t be as good; if you want it cheap and good, it will take some time; if you want it good and fast, itâ€™s expensive. Construction of remote broadband communications networks, wireline or wireless, follow that adage. If you want fast, high quality broadband today, itâ€™s expensive. If youâ€™ll settle for slower service that is affordable, you can have it now. If you want high speed at a lower cost, youâ€™ll have to wait.
Solving the problem of really remote access will be done locally, not from some center of government or global headquarters building. Large, community-based deployments are a cost-effective way to deliver services to many users in a small geographic area. It worked for water and electricity. Coverage is ubiquitous as are operations and maintenance, making services affordable for the customer and profitable for the provider. Population density makes it very cost effective to implement hub-and-spoke or ring architectures to deliver water, power, and network connectivity. Less population, however, means more expense â€“ unless the architecture changes. One well per water customer would be ridiculous in any city or town but itâ€™s a necessity in rural areas and, over the life of the system, the cost is manageable.