Exalt Communications released findings from a blind survey of telecom professionals that revealed a divide in the telecom industry regarding the best way to expand rural broadband penetration in the United States, as well as enhance mobile broadband capacity in urban areas. The data highlights the different challenges in network access, capacity and performance.
The survey was conducted in the first quarter of this year and includes responses from 124 telecom professionals – 44 percent affiliated with tier-one and 11 percent affiliated with tier-two mobile operators. Respondents were asked for their opinions on U.S. broadband penetration, the role of government funding, connectivity in rural areas, and the expansion of mobile backhaul capacity in urban centers.
“Considering the head start the United States once had, today’s broadband networks are woefully inadequate,” said Amir Zoufonoun, president and CEO of Exalt Communications in a company release. “We sponsored this survey to better understand why, in terms of broadband speed and penetration, the United States is falling behind smaller countries with fewer resources. By polling only telecom executives, engineers, and field techs, we thought we’d gain some insights or, at least, find some consensus that could help us understand if product deficiencies might be behind the slowdown. Instead, we found misperceptions and disaccord on the future of broadband networks in both rural and urban regions of the United States.”
According to Zoufonoun, 32 percent of survey respondents believe that broadband connectivity should be a basic human right. Return on investment (ROI) for service providers is what’s holding back connectivity in rural areas, not technology or demand, said 65 percent of those surveyed. “The situation isn’t any clearer for mobile operators in urban areas grappling with subscriber demand for data,” Zoufonoun said in a company release. “Although 76 percent of respondents agree on the importance of small cells to improve mobile backhaul capacity, their willingness to consider equipment from small-cell startup companies shows they are still developing their small-cell strategies and searching for the best ways to implement them.”
The research on small-cell backhaul technology in urban areas was the second component to the survey, said a company spokesperson. The industry agreed that small-cell technologies would be important to future network projects, for improving performance and the customer experience at the network edge. The disparity, however, was that while operators could agree it is as important, they have widely differing opinions on the vendors who are developing these technologies. Many are looking to startups for help.