"Need for speed" - How much bandwith do we actually need??
In many broadband discussions it seems like it is taken for granted, that there is an enormous and unquestionable need for hi speed broadband "everywhere" and for "everyone" - and that the key goal therefore is to roll out hi speed/fibre based broadband as fast as possible. This view is heavily supported by the operators, and their "friends".
In Norway, two studies have been released in 2012 - both taking a critical examination of the "hi speed services", the actual "need for speed" and the socio-economic effect of rolling out hi speed broadband.
One of the studies was conducted by Norsk Telecom AS - a company which I am involved in..:
The study documents that there currently is a solid over-capacity in the Norwegian high speed broadband segment. Mean access speeds are according to the Norwegian Census Bureau 7 Mbit/s for the private sector, and 4 Mbit/s for the professional and government sector - while access services exceeding 25 Mbit/s are available for connection in 3/4 of the country. In other words, there is no overwhelming demand for hi speed internet today - neither in the professional nor in the mass segment.
Furthermore, the study shows that is is hard to identify generally used utility services (non entertaining services) today requiring > 10 Mbit/s downstream - both within the professional and the private sector. There are no government or business bodies that "require" a hi speed roll out now. (Other issues have a substantially higher priority...) Hence - the super broadband capacities are today primarily used for video/television and file sharing (P2P) - a conclusion that is supported by companies like Cisco and Sandvine.
These observations must be seen in the light of a lack of profitability for most of the some 80+ fibre operators in Norway - almost all of them owned by public hydroelectric powerline companies.
You can find some more info on the report "Do we need Superbroadband?" here --> http://teleinfo.no/index.php?id=60 We are working on producing an English summary before the DA Assembly, and will be happy to share this document with interested parties.
The second study was prepared for the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development by the company Vista Analyse AS. The project goal was to assess the socio-economic benefits of rolling out hi speed broadband in rural Norway. The conclusions of the report was that there were no significant socio-economic benefits.... - but that there were substantial benefits by ensuring that "basic broadband" (defined as 4 Mbit/s) was available to everyone... The report also recommended a more "sober approach" when evaluating the need for speed, and the corresponding technical alternatives. Unfortunately, there is no English description of this report so far.
I have identified similar/comparable studies from other countries - both inside and outside the EU.
I believe this is an extremely interesting topic, and certainly there is room for many different opinions in this discussion! I hope that many people can help fuel this dicussion in Brussels next week!