Here in Australia the debate over the A$37 billion ($38.3 billion) FTTH National Broadband Network (NBN) has been as bitter and partisan as anything I have seen in my 15 years living down under, at times it has made debates over traditional hot-button issues like abortion and gay marriage seem like tea and biscuits with the local Vicar.
As an analyst one of the most frequently asked questions I have received from mainstream journalists during the NBN debate is, “Why do we need the NBN anyway, why can’t we just do it with wireless?”
Indeed, I once appeared on a Melbourne AM radio station with a well-known conservative-leaning host to answer this very question, this required a lengthy explanation that going all-wireless would not be possible because of spectrum constraints and that fixed-broadband networks were irreplaceable. I haven’t been invited back.
Nonetheless, the suspicion still lingers in conservative circles that something is not quite kosher, the booming device eco-system of smart-phones and Tablets convincing many of them that “wireless is the future” and that the boring, expensive fixed-broadband NBN was a scandalous waste of money from a profligate, socialist (if not downright communist) government.
That’s Tokyo calling….
Although the fact remains that wireless networks – even the greatly hyped newcomer LTE – can’t carry the weight of demand for bandwidth from subscribers, there is now serious evidence emerging that the arrival of high-speed LTE networks coupled with the Smartphone and Tablet boom is creating serious problems for FTTH operators in some markets.
The best example of this is coming from Japan where fixed-broadband giants NTT East and NTT West have been forced to slash their FTTH prices for new subscribers by an eye-watering 34% from ¥5,460 ($66.70) to ¥3,600 per month to try and re-ignite their subscriber growth and stop the outflow of subscribers to cheaper LTE mobile broadband services.