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CES Show Highlights Importance of Fiber Links

Jan 24, 2007 8:00 AM, By John McKeon


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Michael Dell, CEO of Dell Computers and CES keynoter

The spread of fiber networks, and their potential impact on both consumers and business multimedia users, were among the ongoing themes of the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. One keynote speaker, Michael Dell, CEO of Dell Computers, drew a clear connection between the availability of fiber and the realization of a multitude of appealing possibilities.

“In fact, broadband is certainly on the rise,” he said, “but it's mostly DSL or cable. And to have a great experience, you really require something much faster, something like a fiber connection.”

David Vercelletto, senior systems engineer at Texel/SPL Integrated Solutions, also cites fiber connectivity as a key to unlocking the promises of convergence. “Fiber is definitely the enabler,” Vercelletto says. He points out how easily high-definition video can overwhelm such common transport vehicles as T1 lines, with minimally acceptable video quality requiring 126kbps of capacity and a somewhat improved quality demanding 384K. “For high-definition, you have to be in the glass domain,” Vercelletto says.

Dell, speaking at CES, sounded the same note. He said, “YouTube today consumes as much bandwidth as the entire Internet consumed in the year 2000. Now, when you imagine the multitude of new services and new capabilities coming online, that says we're all going to need a lot more bandwidth.”

“Now, fiber penetration is in its infancy, but we see some progress,” he added. “Singapore has a plan to offer its residents 1Gbps by 2015. You can already get 100Mbps in Denmark, Japan, Romania, Iceland, Slovenia, Dubai, parts of Kuwait, and in cities like Paris and Prague. In fact, in Iceland, you can get it for $26 a month.”

However, Dell went on, “Here in the United States, broadband penetration is just 44 percent, with fiber to the home being just 1 percent of that. So there's a lot of opportunity to improve this.”

Dell added, though, that talking about “fiber to the home” is really only a partial description of the market potential. “While consumers are a very important part of our business, we actually do 85 percent of our business with governments, institutions, and businesses.”

U. S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, speaking at an International Super Session at CES, remarked, “These changes in the market aren’t just being enabled by new technology, they are being driven by enormous competitive pressures. We no longer live in a world where consumers are limited to buying discrete services from monopoly providers. Consumers increasingly choose from multiple service providers based on price, performance, mobility, and associated services.”

And Microsoft’s Bill Gates, also a CES keynoter, stressed the growth of bandwidth as a necessity for further progress. “We have incredible devices with very high fidelity. Think about these high-definition screens that when you buy it you just drool looking at that picture, it's such an improvement over the classic TV screen that you used to have, and now it connects up to your high-definition cable, to your PC, to your games, all those experiences taking advantage of that incredible visual capability. Network bandwidth has gone up very dramatically. We're avoiding that being a bottleneck, even as we're sending high-definition signals around.”

Still, much remains to be done. As Texel/SPL’s Vercelletto points out, “[True collaboration is] very, very bandwidth-intensive, and some areas of the world don’t even have enough copper.”



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