Demand for uncapped broadband providers reaches a fever pitch
2018 can feel a lot like 1998 when your broadband provider is making you suffer with 200 GB data caps. And while originally designed to block a small group of BitTorrent bandwidth hogs, data caps are now more likely to stop TV cord cutters from leaving Pay TV subscriptions. For better or worse, with the demise of Net Neutrality, ISPs can legally block certain types of traffic – like Torrents – without resorting to data limits. In 2018, I expect some forward-looking ISPs will seize on the idea of truly unlimited data plans as a consumer differentiator. The mobile world is already seeing this phenomenon with free video streaming, and the new upstart competition deploying fixed wireless broadband alternatives will likely follow suit.
The year all the big telcos get into wireless broadband
This past year saw the first wave of large telcos jumping into wireless broadband with both Verizon’s announcement of Gigabit millimeter wave, and AT&T’s announcement of 10 Mbps rural services in their 2.3 GHz band. The CBRS 3.55-3.70 GHz spectrum will be available by summer, and most importantly, huge chunks of Connect America Fund II government grants will need to be spent to meet deployment commitments. Affordable new gear from vendors like Mimosa means that all the right market conditions are finally in place for the Tier 3, Tier 2 and Tier 1 Telcos to jump on board for true wireless broadband delivery.
Cord cutting becomes more than a rounding error
Last year’s prediction that many more players would offer internet TV streaming packages came true. But the content that consumers want, especially live sports, simply hasn’t been available and made cord cutting difficult for most American families. Looking ahead, however, the content options and maturity of streaming apps on Amazon Fire and Apple TV 4K platforms is only getting better, and cord cutting in 2018 will become an increasingly viable option for consumers not wanting to sacrifice their favorite content. I recently did it myself, finding more content than ever before, and I even saved over $100 per month! Power TV watchers will still need to watch out for 1 TB data caps, but practically speaking, most viewers will find that 1 TB gets the job done nicely. Once 25 Mbps services are competitively deployed across the country, (see prediction #2) cord cutting will be completely mainstream.
We’ll get more spectrum, but not enough
While the CBRS deployments scheduled for mid-2018 are unquestionably a good start, CBRS spectrum will not completely solve our broadband problems. The 10 MHz and 20 MHz maximum channel aggregation in CBRS will at best be able to offer 10 and 25 Mbps services, and most people expect this band to be used for additional 5G cellular capacity in urban areas. Wireless technology can deliver reliable gigabit speeds, but not without the right spectrum. Millimeter wave may deliver on the promise of gigabit service with dense small cell deployments in metropolitan areas, but it won’t get the job done in suburban and rural residential markets. In 2018, I predict we’ll see the fixed wireless broadband, 5G mobile, and satellite industry working together to share the satellite C-band 3.7-4.2 GHz to introduce shared spectrum for fixed, mobile and satellite providers in the areas we need it most.