SXSW: Next Generation Broadband (Session Notes)

Daniel Baker (mod), Superconnect, Houston. Software development for broadband networks. Cable companies, ISPs, etc.

Robert Jacobs, Phonoscope.

Karl Lehenbauer, founder of Superconnect Previously, founded Neosoft. One of the first Texas ISPs.

Daniel: How to define "next generation broadband" Define by capability, not capacity. Issue of "what you are able to do", not speed. What are the killer apps? "The spam aspect is going to be exciting." (just joking)

Robert: The deliver mechanism is fiber to home. Cable and phone companies, maybe the city. Master planned communities are building and managing their own network. Don't see wireless as being too much of a play. Wireless is a half duplex world, we want two way bandwidth.

Karl: Fiber is only technology that will go super-fast. Phone companies are loathe to give up copper infrastructure, so we are decades away from fiber. So, phone companies will start moving intelligence closer to the home, say drop a terminal in the neighborhood to deliver DSL. WiMax, you can conceivably do wireless to homes. Found in bad weather it doesn't work. Will be a plethora of technologies.

Daniel: You don't see DSL cable as being next generation?

Robert: DSL cannot do 8Mbps, needed to start delivering video. "We're looking to provide 9-16Mbps to provide future broadband access." That means fiber. Satellite isn't an answer. Needs too much power to broadcast back up. Also latency too hide.

Daniel: What is delaying deployment of Gig-Ethernet in neighborhoods?

Robert: Investment in legacy copper networks. Cable companies have positioned themselves to be the broadband carrier of the future. We have 8 or 10 neighborhoods in Houston that are cable to the curb.

Robert: There are a lot of responsibilities for having broadband at home. Spam and worms are a problem.

Karl: Under broadband, connection is a lot more valuable. Can leverage a lot more bandwidth.

Daniel: What are the impacts on television services? And relationships between companies? Used to think cable companies were doomed and had to move to data (from DirectTV and such).

Karl: Millions of dollars overhead to go into a community with cable.

Daniel: Time-Warner next generation services: on-demand pay-per-view. Tivo you have to like and record a show. With this service you have a library of all programs open to you.

Robert: Providers have to carry certain bundles of programming, no option. Provider can't take ESPN off your bill. There has to be a roots level change as to how we purchase services. The Viacom dispute was just over a nickel per subscriber.

Karl: Broadcast flag, will prevent us from copying stuff. Need to keep a big eye on.

Robert: Want to use broadband to VPN from home. Miss traffic, be more convenient. Care for kids.

Daniel: What do you think of future of Direct TV?

Robert: They are still a huge content provider. They have the potential to meet the needs of the rural area. What we are talking about now is going to appear only in the bigger cities. SWB just sold off a million rural subscriber lines. The buyer is after $29 phone lines, they aren't going to build broadband.

Audience: Utilities providing data over power lines.

Robert: Some development. What they have to do to condition the lines, they are cost prohibitive.

Karl: Something we've been hearing about a long time. As a technician would you like to connect your circuit to a 30KV tie line. Has been simple data over power lines for a long time for some of the things the utilities do.

Daniel: What should change with the consumer bandwidth model? Our product allows consumers to manage their bandwidth in real-time, rather than having to call to change service level. Consumers aren't ready to handle burst capability. So we're stuck with 1megabit down and 256k up. What has to happen to change that?

Robert: Are the consumers willing to pay for it? What if they get infected by a worm that uses bandwidth?

Daniel: Limit the burst amount.

Robert: Then you are back to a rated service, you either allow burst or you don't.

Daniel: Burst only for a short period of time. Limit burst during high times of utilization, which will help with worm issue.

Robert: How do you sell something for $45/meg that costs you $85/meg from your upstream? You oversubscribe.

Karl: Cisco won't let me throttle bandwidth with usage, but that would be the ideal thing. In Asia, it's a lot faster. In Korea they are provisioning for 40Mbit to homes, and can actually do gigabit.

Daniel: Companies selling consumer access are not the people who are making the software and hardware. Systems where they have control, say phones, they will show a progress bar but not a speed. Consumers are more sensitive. When a consumer reports poor performance, what is the problem? Sometimes the Internet is going to be slow, sometimes faster.

Robert: There is no correlation between speed and latency. This is one of the places for providers to enable broadband networks. Intelligence in core routing to reduce latency. There are lots of long haul pipes that are underused. We are overloading core routers, thus there is loss and queues and repetitions.

Karl: "We upgrade this Interstate highway from 4 to 10 lanes, but it still dumps into the same ramps." This is something people are working on.

Q&A

Question: Why aren't telcos going to be rolling out the fiber?

Robert: They are, but they have a huge legacy plant they are protecting.

Question: Is it possible to setup a tower to uplink to satellite?

Robert: You still have the 2 second latency.

Question: Question about deploying broadband to new developments versus existing users.

Karl: Half the cost of installing fiber is trenching. When country was being electrified, cities were done first. Same thing with broadband. In 1930s rural communities were being ignored for electricity. Government needed to step in. I see a role for government in broadband deployment. Internet will be a public utility like power.

Question: Asian countries have much higher penetration rate due to government policies and population density. What should be government role in US.

Robert: "They aren't involved as much as they used to be, which is a great help." At a local level, we are still all regulated. We are franchised by the city.

Question: Why fiber and not wireless? A lot of people at this conference would disagree. (ed: my question, which was saved for the very end)

Daniel: There is fiber to the premises, this is being deployed. Wireless is still in being development.

Robert: Wireless has its place. Wireless hotspots, wireless in home. But beyond that, in a metro network with buildings and trees, there is not a good wireless solution for that type of application. In a master planned community, best solution for the network is hidwired fiber optic cable to a Gig-E switch.

Karl: I'm agnostic as to actual technology. I can get megabit out of phone lines that couldn't do 14K. Wi-Max is exciting. But my DirectTV picture goes away in a storm. I don't want that to happen with Internet. Plus, if I need 30Mbps to feed all my HDTV streams, multiplied over a neighborhood, not enough bandwidth.