Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Carrier Rural Coverage Based Off Public Safety Broadband and Utilities

Fulfilling the needs of rural and ultra-urban broadband access for Americans is part of the payroll-tax legislation that reallocates the 700 MHz D Block spectrum to first responders and was put into action by President Obama. I believe the rollout of the Public Safety network is the best-suited in making that a reality. After all it may be just me, but it seems that the commoditization of the Internet Access model is becoming best suited for State Utilities anyways. Allow me to explain.

Now this is a complex argument, but it is a known fact that the carrier market place has been on a steady decline for the last 5-10 years. With the advent of IP Based technologies it is easing the complexity of the core commercial carrier networks that allow for cost cutting reductions in designs and deployments; thus impacting the commercial OEMs who provide equipment and the contractors who build it; which means less complicated gear required and less time to build and maintain. Ultimately the idea of the commercial carrier is to shrink its dependency on the costly maintenance and upgrades of existing infrastructure as to increase profit margin on the services it sells through that infrastructure. To that end the commercial carriers see the possibility to move out of the “access and owning the infrastructure model” all together and more towards owning the content rights to the services themselves. If that is indeed the case then who is best suited to provide the physical access to the services – in essence your Internet access at home?

On the commercial side there will always be the common carrier involved in selling wireless and wireline service; only their imprint may be more of a local or regional carrier rather than the big dogs.  On the private side a new form of access could, and should, be investigated…that being a fixed access model through your Utility provider.  After all, who is better suited to providing commoditized services! Your Utility provider has been handling commoditized energy access for 100 years now. The issue though is the State Public Utility Commissions designed to put a firewall between the commercial and public utility world. But will the impact of the newly created Public Safety Broadband Network be the answer to that?

I foresee the reality of the Utilities having to be a part of the Public Safety Broadband Network (PSBN) through its footprint, access to critical services and its First Responder status. It would be ill advised not to allow a State utility to be a part in that they have the money, footprint and infrastructure that could help build such solutions. Plus, imagine if they weren’t and had to get their services from a commercial carrier – a similar carrier to which suffers with massive outages during an earthquake? But, most importantly, they represent a great investment opportunity the Public Private Partnership. If that is the case, and the Utility does take part in the PSBN, then the reality of broadband access to the rural areas becomes the light at the end of the tunnel.

What if the PSBN, setup and managed by FirstNet, actually had the Utility as part of their plans? This would mean that a key part of that partnership would now have the inherent capabilities of a Utility delivering commoditized services. So lets say the entire PSBN gets built and is running based of Public Safety and First Responder needs only. All traffic patterns on that network were secured and patterned in a way as to channelize the critical traffic of communications into prioritized roadmaps. Everything is working fine, then we realize that even at full capacity during a major event we notice that the network is isolated to one area, or region, of the network and barely pushes above 10% of the available bandwidth and coverage. Even though the prioritization schemes are in place, we still notice the underutilization of the network and costs. What if the available and under utilized bandwidth could be used as a revenue option for providing access to the rural areas? And what if the Utilities could be utilized to manage that access through their existing infrastructure of billing and collection platforms? Or better yet…what if the FirstNet (once the national network is built) puts out an RFP to the commercial carriers to pay for access to those same rural customers through the PSBN infrastructure? These are but a few great opportunities I see coming out of this national private network.

But you must always remember that the commercial carriers are inherently moving away from the model of owning their own infrastructure and see a clear path to enhanced revenue margins by selling content instead; thus the opportunity of a Public Utility providing everyone commoditized Internet access, without the demands of revenue and profits, makes for a nice play. Whose to say that even the SPV (special Purpose Vehicle), or public-private partnering entity setup to run the broadband solution, could"t they also provide these services along with its standing long-term contracts and SLAs with State and Federal Agencies? All seem perfectly viable revenue sources for a “self-funded” network.

Just some guy and a blog…that is being read.

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