It’s all about wireless. We’ve got 4G nearly everywhere, mobile broadband in cars, and Wi-Fi hotspots out the wazoo. The cable companies are in bed with Verizon to get their wireless share, and Verizon is sucking up spectrum like a giant Bissell vacuum cleaner. Who needs that wired stuff after all?
It’s a wireless fun fest today, but I predict within 18 months (that’s a totally arbitrary guess- could be a year, could be two years) that the love affair with wireless will have entered a new and cynical phase. Not only that, but we’ll see renewed interest in wired broadband investments. Here’s why.
1. Data caps on mobile broadband are only going to get worse. Today I keep wi-fi off on my 4G phone because mobile broadband almost always performs better than whatever public wi-fi hotspot I find myself in. However, I’m grandfathered in on an unlimited data plan. When that unlimited deal goes away, my 4G access is going to be a lot less useful.
2. Wi-Fi hotspots kinda stink. By and large this is true, and as we expect to be able to do more online, the quality of public wi-fi is going to become more and more of an issue. At the same time, there’s going to be a bigger strain on these hotspots as more people try to offload from their mobile broadband connections.
3. More cool broadband stuff is coming. Between more video coming online and experiments with 1Gbps connections, we’re going to continue to have more incentive to use more data. For a quality experience, we’ll resort to the tried-and-true broadband connections we can get at home and work. Which means, those home and work connections are once again going to grow in importance.
There’s a lot of investment going on in consumer wireless broadband today, but the pendulum should swing back the other way once some of the inevitable wireless disillusionment takes hold. While Verizon has significantly slowed (stopped?) FiOS deployments at the moment, it will be in the carrier’s best interest to pick them up again in the future – if only to offload wireless traffic and keep its mobile customers happy.
Either that, or Verizon will find itself having to encourage competitors’ wired broadband investments – something that may get tricky given the increasingly competitive commercial services market. That’s right, don’t forget about the business market. Even as Verizon and the cablecos have gotten all cozy on the residential front, there’s still a battle brewing for commercial customers. Cable companies take a small percentage of that market today, but it’s a huge revenue growth engine for them. And I doubt Verizon will be keen to let that growth go unchecked. So, enter again the need for wired broadband investments. I predict the battle will heat up first in the commercial sector, but then spill over into residential neighborhoods again. It’s only a matter of time before wired broadband comes back into vogue.