No Network is "Always Best," But Mobile Comes Close, in Consumer Market

As a rule, no single access platform is “best” for every deployment scenario, even if mobile networks globally have proven to be the most-affordable for most people, most places.

Still, the relevance of satellite delivery, fixed wireless, specialized business networks and potentially new platforms (low earth orbit satellite constellations, balloons and drones) cannot be denied, even if it is likely most of those new solutions might wind up providing backhaul for mobile networks.

Sometimes the advantage of “specialized” networks comes from customer demand, at other times from the characteristics of the access platform.

Optical networks serving enterprises or satellite TV networks serving consumers in rural areas are examples of specialized demand or cost-optimized delivery.

Still, it is hard to discount the growing “primary” reliance on mobile networks for most consumer purposes. Since 2003, mobile network rural coverage had grown from a bit over 20 percent in 2003, in Africa, to as much as 84 percent by 2012.  

In other regions, such as Asia, rural coverage grew from 60 percent to 87 percent in Asia and from about 64 percent in North America to 96 percent. In Europe, rural coverage grew from about 90 percent to 97 percent.

In 2015, 73 percent of the world’s population is covered by 3G networks, one way of measuring potential Internet access coverage. The GSM Association estimates that 3G coverage will grow to 80 percent by 2020.

By 2020, some 60 percent of people will have 4G coverage.

Such forecasts are the reasons why some access or transport platforms can exist, even when mobile coverage becomes nearly ubiquitous. Mobile will not be the “best” network for all purposes, and will not be available in some geographies.




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