(This article originally appeared in the January 2010 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY.)
VoIP drives broadband demand, and broadband brings with it VoIP. These two components of the broader communications industry are inextricably connected. It is no big mystery that VoIP penetration is higher in countries with a high broadband penetration and lower as a percentage in countries with low broadband penetration.
Talk is cheap though (no VoIP pun intended) and where the rubber meets the road is what the definition of broadband actually is. In truth, some authoritative body could say that what you have at your home today is technically broadband, but if you can't run a proper VoIP application on it, then is it really broadband?
Broadband has very loose definitions because it travels over different media types and is provided by different operators running different types and ages of network. The age of the network says a lot about the provider's predicament. Old networks are set in place and technological time mostly still running on legacy copper and TDM. Given the way finance is, these companies are largely stuck milking the network for all they can. They don't have the capex or ability to invest in new physical layer network infrastructure (fiber) that could bring about better broadband (DWDM/Ethernet), but they wish they did.
There are, of course, many network operators with old plant that do not want to invest in new infrastructure in those areas, but do invest in areas where they see competition. They do not want to lose their customers, but really only react when forced to. Service providers coming in to an area for the first time today prefer to do so over new fiber facilities they own or lease. This enables them to run much better optical equipment that generates more revenue at better margins than the incumbent. The new fiber optic gear also provides a much faster end-user service, something that could be truly considered broadband - something you can run VoIP on.
Getting VoIP out to the masses and really making a push for meaningful subscriber percentages comes down to getting dark fiber available for lease further out in to the field. The fiber brings the broadband that carries the VoIP. It may seem strange to connect what is essentially an application that is used as a service to a physical layer product, but the fiber is just as important as the device (mobile, laptop, etc.) in using the service.
Even wireless networks require fiber for backhaul. It wasn't that long ago that the wireless business was synonymous with voice calling. Ironically, as IP has pushed out TDM in the wireless business, voice has become VoIP with little effect on capacity requirements - but a major effect on revenues from the service. However, the ability to carry IP (data) to the mobile device, specifically video, has caused an even larger requirement for fiber-based wireless backhaul. This further demonstrates the tremendous need to bring new dark fiber that is available for lease out into the field. Where there is broadband (wireline, or wireless) there will be VoIP.
Hunter Newby (News - Alert), CEO Allied Fiber writes the VoIPeering column for TMCnet To read more of Hunter's articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Erik Linask