Defining Business Dynamics of Broadband Communications

Hunter Newby is on a mission. A mission to tear down the shroud of confusion preventing Americans from being wired into global Looking into the telecom futurecommunications at the same level as our neighbors in Asia or Europe. It is all about delivering broadband communications to every addressable device or person wired into the global communications matrix.

Hunter, CEO of Allied Fiber, is on a mission to build and deliver high capacity utility fiber optic infrastructure around the United States, connecting every possible carrier hotel, metro fiber provider, wireless tower, and international cable landing station into a nation-wide, neutral communications resource that will push the United States to achieve our economic, social, and academic goals.

“Fiber as a term is very over-used and misunderstood. Defining what “fiber” means in the context of a conversation, business opportunity, route, or all of the above is essential, or else you can totally miss the point.” (Hunter Newby)

Allied Fiber is Not Alone

Kaufman Brothers (KBRO), a New York investment banking company is sponsoring an event on January 12th in New York entitled “Technology Trends 2010.” One session within the conference is “Bandwidth: The Increasing Value of Fiber.”

Bringing together thought leaders from broadband companies, who would normally compete with the national carriers such as AT&T, Verizon, QWEST, and Level 3, the conference will address and debate the misconceptions of delivering broadband telecom access to the country, as well as establish a framework of how the emerging fiber industry may help the US meet its broadband objectives.

During this panel we will help define the differences between various forms of fiber and their consequent value, including routes (metro vs. regional vs. long-haul), locations (residential vs. enterprise vs. data center), and services (dark fiber vs. private line vs. Ethernet). We will also more broadly discuss some of the drivers for bandwidth growth including increasing low latency requirements, use of online video and storage/SaaS/cloud computing, as well as the necessary requirements to provide fiber-to-the-tower backhaul. (TMC/KBRO)

If you listen to the marketing story of large carriers, the issue with broadband and emerging applications, such as video over Internet, is that carriers cannot afford to build and deliver the infrastructure needed to support the applications without creating a new model of internet traffic shaping and pricing.

In short, this means that carriers are currently concerned with controlling and managing application development and growth – and not as concerned with the vision of how our communications infrastructure should be designed and prepared to meet the “wired” needs of our next generations of users.

Or in even shorter and simpler terms, an 8 year old school girl in Bemidji has an expectation that we (as an industry) will deliver her a physical platform that gives her the tools to diffuse 21st century technology into her life at a rate which exceeds her counterparts in Seoul.

The Role of Thought Leaders and Investment Bankers

Industry leaders such as Hunter Newby and Dan Caruso (another panel member at the KBRO conference) have been digging up the ground, laying fiber, building data centers, and supporting the telecom and Internet community for a couple decades.

Offended by hype, these guys have earned their tacit knowledge and tacit experience campaign ribbons through many years of living and designing the telecom infrastructure we are using today. They have worked alongside, and even directed, much of the laundry list of industry pundits who grace the media with dazzling visions of the future.

Once the dazzle settles, the thought leaders and investment bankers role up their sleeves and start planting development milestones on paper.

And for a country the size of the United States, those milestones depend on both building, and understanding the dynamics of fiber optic infrastructure. Lots of fiber optic infrastructure. And questions…

For example, is the fiber “dark, or lit”? If it is dark, is it available for lease? What is the age of the fiber? What type of fiber is it (NZDSF, or SMF)? Where can it be accessed along the route – only in the regen colos (regeneration sites with adjacent collocation)? Are they carrier-neutral colo’s? What are the terms and costs associated with the lease, or IRU? What route does the fiber take? Is it diverse from other routes? Is the route shorter than other routes thus producing a lower latency between the endpoints than other longer routes? Are there wireless towers that can be easily accessed by the fiber? And so on… (Hunter Newby)

Americans Can Sleep Well Tonight

Knowing there is a growing movement within our senior telecommunications industry through leadership should give us some “peace of mind.” While day-to-day we may worry about job loss, inflation, mortgages, and clawing our way ahead, it is easy to lose track of what infrastructure is needed to keep our country competitive.

While the average person may read about Hunter Newby, Dan Caruso, and other soldiers in the infrastructure army thinking “well, that is nice – not sure how it applies to me…,” the reality is your 8 year old daughter depends on them to get it right.

Your 8 year old daughter in Bemidji, Minnesota, is growing up in a global community and economy. She is no longer competing with a girl in Thief River Falls or Baudette, she is competing with an 8 year old girl in Seoul, Ramallah, or Singapore.

To compete she will need access to all the broadband access and available network-enabled applications that will be available to other 8 year old girls throughout the world.

Hunter knows this, the investment banking community is waking up to both the opportunity and responsibility, the fiber companies are energized, and now we need to be thankful the telecom thought leadership community has prioritized our personal and national interests.

The new generations will have Gigabit access to wireless networks, home access to fiber networks, business access to broadband networks – as a country the United States will get wired. We will be competitive in the global wired world, and the 8 year old girl in Bemidji will have access to every possible utility and intellectual tool she needs.

Take no prisoners guys…

A Day in Hanoi – Moving On to a Tech-Fueled Future

How do you get 6.2 million people up every morning, feed them, send them to work or school, and put a roof over their heads every night in a country where the average income of a worker is around $800 a year? Then answer is easy. Hard work, sacrifice, innovation, and an entrepreneurial spirit that is partially survival instinct, and mostly hope.

Motor Scooter Covered with HatsIn Hanoi it is easy to be confused while walking down a main street where many shops offer the latest in wide screen TVs and mobile phone technology, while navigating sidewalks busy with vendors trying to scrape a living by selling used books and bowls of dumplings.

We’ve been here before. Guangzhou in the early 1990s. Ulaanbaatar in the 1990s. Jakarta. Locations that are now littered with a Starbucks on every street corner, Mercedes Benz jamming the streets, and a hunger for opulence that has literally flipped the economy and quality of life on its back.

Does Hanoi have the same opportunity and appetite for success as other Asian countries? The intellectual and institutional tools to make s it happen?

Absolutely.

In the 1900s foreign tech companies would go to China to set up shop. Most had a twisted idea that if they sold a comb to one billion Chinese they would become wealthy, but others saw the potential of China as a place to build new business, and new business models not possible in their home countries. In the telecom Telecom and Power Cabling in Hanoibusiness we found university graduates with strong backgrounds in math, science, and physics – but had never actually touched a laptop computer or telecom switch.

Within a few months, with their strong academic training, the Chinese employees were overtaking their (in our case) American counterparts in both understanding the technology we were deploying, but also having a view into the future that was not nurtured in our home offices.

As a company we made the decision to let the China-based branch offices of our company loose to develop new products, software, and services based roughly on our company’s target market. The China office blew past our home office vision, and led the company into new areas of business that ultimately changed our entire service line – until we were eventually throttled back due to our business being contributed into a merger.

I see the same intelligence, capability, and burning hunger for success in Hanoi. The university graduates I meet are smart, really smart. Unlike the 1990s in China, Hanoi (and I assume many parts of Vietnam) already have some access to Internet technology. Very low cost Internet cafes dot the city, and a peek into the café reveals users are not playing games – rather they are using Facebook and other social media to communicate with expatriate relatives and friends, as well as making new contacts around the world.

Well-educated, and globalized.

Prioritizing Hanoi

There are several arguments possible on where and how Hanoi should focus their innovative efforts. The city infrastructure is appalling. Raw sewage floats down the sidewalks and street where children are playing. Tens Motor Scooters at an Intersection in Hanoiof thousands of scooters spew CO2 into the air. Low quality coal is used in homes for cooking and heat, spewing terrible levels of particulate into the air, as well as increasing the potential of illness due to CO2 poisoning in the home.

Clean water is also a commodity, and there is no assurance even tap water meets minimum international standards for health.

High voltage power lines are frequently running along the top of city sidewalks, and bundles of telephone and power cables drape their way across streets and intersections creating a situation that makes you pray there are no typhoons, earthquakes, or even irresponsible lorry (truck) drivers that may cause one of the utility poles to tumble into a crowded public space.

So the dilemma – should a city like Hanoi focus all its effort on rebuilding city infrastructure, or jumping into the 22nd century exploiting the capacity of their youth? Rhetorical? Maybe. Necessary? Definitely.

My suggestion would be to let the international agencies work with government to develop a strategy to rebuild the city’s infrastructure, and let the private sector develop the youth of Vietnam to build the basis for an economy and society for the next generation.

It would be a tragedy to force the youth of Hanoi, or any other developing country, to miss the opportunities of living in a global social and economic future driven by technology – and be forced to look forward to a life of selling used books to foreigners standing outside of the Hanoi Opera House, scraping enough money out of the sympathies of passing tourists, to find enough money to buy food to live through the next day.

Maybe there is a place for both. Maybe the youth can be trained to develop technologies that will help rebuild Vietnam’s infrastructure. The only problem that arises is that building infrastructure does not build products, provide exports, or support a market economy – it is merely a national cost center in a country that clearly is not in a position to afford a US-style deficit.

Back to the Future

But, when walking past an elementary school it is easy to become excited at the future of Hanoi. Young people must be smarter than our “baby boomer” generation, and they are being presented with basic intellectual tools to run with their dreams and visions. This will not be in competition to America or other country, but rather a new partner in developing a better world.

Given the experiences of China and Mongolia (my own experiences), I have deep empathy for the current sacrifices being made each day by the people of Hanoi, and great optimism that Hanoi’s quality of life and place in the globalized social community will level with the international community within the next generation.

John Savageau, Hanoi

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