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The Many Paradoxes of Broadband. Andrew Odlyzko. odlyzko@umn.edu http://www.dtc.umn.edu/~odlyzko. Broadband (and telecommunications in general) is full of paradoxes, puzzles, and mistaken beliefs. What is broadband? Can we afford it? Do we want it? What will we do with it?

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the many paradoxes of broadband
The Many Paradoxesof Broadband

Andrew Odlyzko

odlyzko@umn.edu

http://www.dtc.umn.edu/~odlyzko

slide2

Broadband (and telecommunications in general) is full of paradoxes, puzzles, and mistaken beliefs

  • What is broadband?
  • Can we afford it?
  • Do we want it?
  • What will we do with it?
  • Should government make it a national priority?
slide3

In spite of the crash, there is money to be made in telecom:

Qwest yellow pages, sold for $7 billion:

annual revenues $1.6 billion

margin 63%

free cash flow $0.5 billion

Hence a low-tech business, with seemingly low barriers to

entry, can be surprisingly profitable.

slide4

Another financial puzzle:

Why did Wall Street applaud AT&T spending $100 billion

to purchase cable TV networks, but got dismayed at spending

$10 billion to upgrade then?

The cost of bringing fiber to each home and business in the U.S.

would have been far lower than money misinvested in the bubble

slide5

Long history of technology leading to overinvestment and crashes

Railways authorized by British Parliament (not necessarily built)

slide6

FCC definition of broadband: connections with speed exceeding 200 Kb/s in at least one directionUnder the official definition, we all have broadband connectivity courtesy of snail mail!CD-ROMs via USPS deliver more data at same cost as a 1 Mb/s connection running at full capacity.

What is broadband?

what matters most in communications
What matters most in communications:
  • volume
  • transaction time
  • reach
  • also:
  • isochronicity
  • price
slide8

Broadband vs. narrowband: How are people voting with their pocketbooks?

U.S. data for December, 2001

broadband lines 12.8M

cell phones 128.4M

Narrowband mobility beats stationary broadband 10:1,

even though prices are comparable

Deployment is not the big issue. Adoption rates matter far more

slide9

Adoption rates suggest broadband beats cell telephony in attractiveness

U.S. Broadband Lines

Dec. 1999 2.8M

Dec. 2000 7.1M

Dec. 2001 12.8M

Dec. 2002 20.0M (est.)

U.S. Cell Phones

Dec. 1989 3.5M

Dec. 1990 5.3M

Dec. 1991 7.6M

Dec. 1992 11.0M

Dec. 1993 16.0M

Dec. 1994 24.1M

  • Thus broadband growth in three years equals that of cell
  • phones in five years
  • cannot ignore technology adoption rates
  • Internet time is a dangerous myth
slide10

Is telecommunications a natural monopoly?

  • But somehow we have multiple networks:
    • wireless phone
    • cable TV
    • satellite broadcast
    • plus, several cell phone companies
slide11

How to spur adoption of broadband?

An impractical but likely effective method:

make music free on the internet

Annual telecom revenues: $300 billion

Annual recorded music sales: $15 billion

slide12

Typical enterprise traffic profile: Demolishes myth of insatiable demand for bandwidth and many (implicit) assumptions about nature of traffic

slide13

SWITCH traffic and capacity across the Atlantic:Illustrates “Moore’s Law” for data traffic (steady growth even in absence of bottlenecks)

slide14

Traffic between the University of Minnesota and the Internet

1,000

100

GB/day

10

1

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

slide15

Carriers are looking for new services, but have a dismal record. Dominant source of innovation: Users

Internet “killer apps,” not a single one invented by carriers:

E-mail

WWW

Browser

Napster

The role of the Internet is to provide connectivity, not services!

slide16

The Internet succeeded by accident. Email,

its “killer app,” was not among the original

design criteria:

The popularity of email was not foreseen by the ARPANET's planners. Roberts had not included electronic mail in the original blueprint for the network. In fact, in 1967 he had called the ability to send messages between users “not an important motivation for a network of scientific computers” . . . . Why then was the popularity of email such a surprise? One answer is that it represented a radical shift in the ARPANET's identity and purpose. The rationale for building the network had focused on providing access to computers rather than to people.

J. Abbate, Inventing the Internet

slide17

Conclusion (inspired by a sign at a computing center help desk)

We are sorry that we have not been able to solve all of your problems, and we realize that you are about as confused now as when you came to us for help. However, we hope that you are now confused on a higher level of understanding than before.

For more data and speculations, see the papers and presentations at:

http://www.dtc.umn.edu/~odlyzko