2017 New Year's Resolution

A New Year’s Resolution: Better Data for All

Posted 12/28/2016 by Neil Bullock

There is a long tradition, across many cultures, of making New Year’s resolutions: Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named. Each New Year offers the opportunity to try something new, or to make efforts to do something better than before.

2016 saw some important achievements in the evolution of the 5G standard and its underlying technologies, as the industry’s network equipment suppliers teamed with operators to compete for leadership in expected 5G metrics such as data throughput, latency, etc. We applaud these achievements and we are excited about the applications that might be enabled by these technologies.

However, the technology elite cannot afford to be deaf to the needs of people who are being left behind. The problems we are seeking to solve with 5G, are the problems of the world’s digital ‘haves’. The world’s digital ‘have nots’ are still constrained by what can be offered over low-speed mobile services or copper-based broadband.

The chart below from Akamai’s State of the Internet Report for Q3 2016, measures the percentage of connections exceeding 4 Mbps, and helps us to visualize the problem.

2016 Akamai network distribution map

Photo credit: https://www.akamai.com/us/en/our-thinking/state-of-the-internet-report/state-of-the-internet-connectivity-visualization.jsp

For reference, the 4 Mbps was adopted as the minimum threshold for broadband in the National Broadband Plan published by the FCC in 2010– and since updated to 25(!) Mbps. In the regions in red in particular, data demand outstrips the capacity of the infrastructure - in rural and in urban areas alike. This represents forgone opportunity in the economic, cultural and entertainment spheres – opportunity that we take for granted in areas with more developed infrastructure.

For cities, we now have a scalable solution in the form of low-cost, low-power micro base stations and metro Wi-Fi access points, powered by solar panel / battery units and connected into dense networks using millimeter wave links. Lattice, through our SiBEAM technology group, provides key components of the latter. These can be installed on street lights, bus stops and traffic lights, or as Nokia demonstrated recently, dropped onto roof-tops by drones.

So, if we have the tools at our disposal to address a pressing issue today, maybe our New Year’s Resolution for 2017 should be to put those tools in the hands of those who could most benefit from them – the digital ‘have nots’ – and work towards making the map less red and more green.

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