2023 Predictions: The Demands of Tomorrow’s Broadband Networks

Jan. 26, 2023
The question for service providers is no longer whether it's time to build next-generation networks, but which investments to make, how to deploy them quickly and efficiently, and how to engineer, install, and maintain that new infrastructure.

Elevated bandwidth demand and access to high-quality broadband have become a necessity. The question for service providers is no longer whether it's time to build next-generation networks, but which investments to make, how to deploy them quickly and efficiently, and perhaps most crucially: how to engineer, install, and maintain that new infrastructure.

A new investment environment

In the past year, widespread geopolitical trends have had an outsized effect on the growth of broadband networks. Supply chain, skilled labor, and logistical constraints have limited the speed of network deployments. But now, unprecedented government funding, an accommodating financial environment, and a mature crop of network technologies have yielded a steep demand curve for building next-generation networks—setting the stage for unprecedented capacity expansion.

This shift has created a new opportunity to add network value—whether that’s achieved through traditional upgrades to HFC, overbuilding DSL, harnessing the innate efficiencies of multi-gigabit fiber technologies like PON, utilizing the reach of wireless technologies, or a combination. The networks of the future will share several key features in common: standardization, ease of installation, speed to market, and specialized capabilities catering to the new demands of businesses and consumers.

Features of next-generation networks

These demands will fundamentally redefine the way that service providers—and new entrants, like municipalities—build networks. For example, unprecedented momentum in smart cities, Internet of Things (IoT), and connected experiences is driving demand at the network edge and creating specific network requirements—from extremely low latency, to symmetrical bandwidth, to the ability to sustain very high speeds for extended periods. These demands require a new type of network based on a new type of approach.

As service providers funnel more investment into meeting this demand, they’re looking at how to differentiate and add more value to their networks. Some of the most effective pathways include realizing energy efficiency through fiber architectures, operational efficiency through software optimization and management, and modularity and extensibility through standardization—all driving efficiency in network deployments through the use of innovative plug-and-play technologies.

Creating new network value

The challenge for service providers has always been scaling seamlessly to new demand while continually adding value to their networks. But instead of trying to achieve this value goal by buying the most cost-effective products, providers will be approaching it through a combination of faster innovative solutions and architectures, smarter software, better integration, and streamlined implementation.

In this demand-driven market, shortages in products, skilled labor, and expert network designers and engineers are the biggest limiting factors to network growth. An elegant solution has emerged in designing products and networks that simplify installation and require fewer inputs along the way.

For example, next-gen PON enables providers to start with a proven network design that runs efficiently and scales easily. A revolution in product design also addresses labor, expertise, and supply chain shortages through standardization. With interoperable components that are easier to spin up and design for, cheaper to maintain, and quicker to replace or upgrade, providers can reduce the demand for training, education, and specialized expertise.

Product standardization solves many common network challenges by adapting well to component shortages, streamlining installations, and enabling cloud- and software-based management. We’ll see standardization address the biggest lifts of building next-generation networks through greater collaboration among standards bodies and alliances, increased licensing agreements between vendors, and new government specifications.

Every touchpoint in the network is an opportunity to add new value. The coming years will see important changes in the way that service providers approach product and network design to simplify this process—fueled by increased collaboration and standardization that allow the entire industry to rise to the challenge of building tomorrow’s broadband networks.

Koen ter Linde is senior vice president, network cable and connectivity, CommScope.

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