The development of broadband access platforms in europe technologies, services, markets. Executive Summary. August 2001
BDRC. Ltd by EUROPEAN COMMISSION
There are different technologies capable of providing digital access to and from the home or SME. These are summarised as follows:
ISDN Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) used over copper, 'twisted pair,' lines as found in the local loop. Typically Basic Rate Interface (BRI) or ISDN2.
Leased Typically Primary Rate Interface (PRI) or ISDN30 used over high performance, coaxial, copper cable which is leased as a dedicated connection for exclusive use.
DSL Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) used over copper, 'twisted pair,' lines as found in the local loop. Typically ADSL (Asymmetric DSL).
DTT Digital Terrestrial Transmission (DTT) typically used to broadcast Digital Television (DTV). Digitised channels are transmitted over the legacy analogue infrastructure.
Digital Wireless, radio transmission, most typically used to broadcast DTV, when it is referred to as Direct To Home (DTH). When upgraded from analogue, it is known as digital broadcast satellite (DBS).
Digital Independent networks used to supply DTV, telephony and Internet. Recent infrastructure uses fibre optic core with copper outer layer (known as hybrid cable). Legacy infrastructure uses coaxial, copper cable with two-way, digital connections.
Fibre Independent networks of solid glass pipes carrying laser generated light signals and allowing extremely fast transmission of digital information. Described as fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) or to any other premises which is typically connected to a local area network (LAN).
Fixed Microwave radio transmission, between a fixed, 'parent' transponder and many fixed subscribers as a 'point-to-multi-point' solution, which could be an alternative to the copper local loop. Commonly referred to as FWA (Fixed Wireless Access) and WLL (Wireless Local Loop).
Mobile Microwave radio transmission, using a cellular network within which many mobile devices can be individually connected. Known as third generation (3G) mobile, UMTS or CDMA.
Powerline The transmission of digital information via the electricity network, allowing simultaneous provision of two-way data access and electrical power. Known as Power Line Transmission (PLT).
High- Similar concept to satellite transmission, but using unmanned aircraft within the earth's atmosphere. Benefits include lower cost and improved signal (compared to satellite). R&D projects include giant, solar-powered, fixed wing or zeppelin.
Optical Laser generated light signals transmitted through open air over distances of up to 2km
The research set out to identify which of these technologies offers most potential as a high-speed access platform for European homes and SMEs. This required the consideration of factors as diverse as the legacy of existing technologies, current scientific boundaries, socio-economics (e.g. economic health, cultural context, political will, and education), and socio-geographics (e.g. population density, extent of anglophone communication, climate, and topography). The research includes penetration data for those platforms already offered to the market, as well as comparison between each Member State of the EU15, in order to compare development within the EU15 as a whole against the US and Japan.
This document represents an executive summary of the study. The full report can be found at www.europa.eu.int/eeurope.
SUMMARY OF PLATFORMS
The consequences of digital convergence are just beginning to emerge. Traditional boundaries are merging, and the future of telecommunications is uncertain. In order to determine the direction of change, we have chosen to consider the legacy of the different players in the digital access market.
The ex-national, incumbent telecom operators are now facing competition and are evolving from providing analogue telephony over copper to the delivery of a seamless digital environment with products such as ISDN, leased lines, ADSL, mobile wireless. This is the narrowcast legacy, in which telecommunications was seen as a commodity service charged for according to the amount of time connected. But now, with the new patterns of use and new products such as the Internet and mobile telephony and SMS, telecommunications operators are becoming the new content providers, requiring new charging structures based on consumer value rather than cost.
Broadcasters have used terrestrial transmission, cable and satellite to transmit television and radio. As these technologies are upgraded to digital transmission, considerably more content can be broadcast. In addition, digital transmission makes interactivity possible, which begins to move the broadcasters in the direction of the narrowcast telecom providers. Indeed, many cable operators are already offering the full range of telecom services in addition to television.
Finally, there are the alternative access platforms. Although mostly untested on the wider market, they have the potential to compete directly with legacy access platforms. Although, in most cases they require the expense of new infrastructure, the advantage is that they have been designed specifically with the future of digital communication in mind. Alternative access platforms include fibre optic and fixed wireless access, both of which could provide reliable, ultra high-speed connections.
2.1. THE NARROWCAST LEGACY
ISDN is comparatively slow and will be replaced by ADSL. A market for basic rate ISDN will continue among residential and SME customers with no alternative. The speed of evolution, from basic rate ISDN to other access platforms (typically ADSL and cable), will be influenced by the availability of ADSL, and the pricing strategy of providers. This is, in turn, determined by the extent of competition in the market.
Leased Lines are expensive, but are typically the only alternative for higher speed access. They are not a residential solution, but are popular among SMEs with data intensive businesses. Leased lines are highly profitable for telecom companies, which are...