Over the past couple of years, subtle but significant evolution has expanded the old cable/digital subscriber line duopoly to include fiber. CNET's Marguerite Reardon raises a very good and important point: The advent of 4G networks, and the push they will receive by the National Broadband Plan, means that wireless will be such a force in the home broadband derby that it will begin displacing the incumbents.
The story suggests how potent wireless can be, and it is finding a receptive audience. Writes Reardon:
But as 4G wireless speeds continue to match speeds for traditional broadband, 4G wireless will serve as a viable replacement for some consumers who are not interested in subscribing to a costly triple-play package of TV, phone, and Internet services.
Wireless is a nimble technology that has two big advantages over cable, DSL and fiber: It is mobile, allowing subscribers to use one connection point for all their broadband needs, and is far easier and cheaper for carriers and service providers to deploy. Both of these advantages are extremely important. The third advantage, which is a bit less tangible, is that 4G is getting the lion's share of the attention from consumers and the technical community.
The next big story in telecommunications will be rollouts of WiMax and LTE. Plans and actual rollouts seem to be accelerating. This, combined with the continued deployment of WiMax by Clearwire and others, will make 4G, which offers speeds roughly akin to DSL and cable, widely available.
This rollout will be catalyzed by the National Broadband Plan, which largely relies on wireless. FierceWireless and other sites report on the wireless element of the Fed's nascent plan, which focuses on adding 500 MHz of spectrum during the next decade, with 300 MHz of that coming during the next five years. A nationwide first responders' network also will be built.
The move to home broadband is an extension of the tendency of people-in most cases, young adults-to give up their wireline phones in favor of various types of cell phones. It makes perfect sense: The generation reaching maturity today grew up with wireless devices. Indeed, the move from a cable or DSL connection to 4G is, if anything, less of a change. In-home 4G equipment looks far more like a DSL or cable modem than a cell phone looks like a traditional telephone.
It is impossible to find any bad news here. Some areas will have as many as four broadband providers vying for customers, and rural areas are far more likely to have at least one. This will lead to lower prices, and better services.