Wireless is set to go broadband

Offering a glimpse into the future of high-speed networking, Leo Hindery, CEO of Global Crossing Ltd., kicked off the opening keynote at the Broadband Year 2000 show earlier this month with a look at the development of broadband and the growing importance of wireless in broadband connectivity.

The rise of the Internet in the 1990s created an insatiable demand for speed, content, and capacity, Hindery said. Because yesterday’s copper communications networks were not designed to handle that capacity, a data-capable Internet infrastructure was needed.

Worldwide fibere-optic networks are being built to sustain broadband communications on a global level. As an example, Hindery referenced Global Crossing’s fibre network, which spans 101,000 miles across 27 countries and five continents using a single network operations centre in London, England.

Wired and wireless technologies are converging, Hindery pointed out. Wireless broadband will position cell, satellite, and fixed wireless technologies into the fibre-optic networks, he said.

As personal connectivity to this high-speed link becomes ubiquitous, Hindery said wireless will play a vital role in broadband, providing a plug-and-play capability that is more respectful of people’s transient lifestyles.

“Today, it is a crush to get connected while you are on the road,” Hindery said. “I’d love a world of true transient Internet access, where it is the same on the road as it is [at] home.”

“I suggest that wireless will break through to broadband in the third generation [wireless]. In less than 5 years, half the traffic on global networks will be wireless-initiated and wireless-received,” Hindery said.

However, Hindery said that the U.S. lags “pitifully” far behind in its development of wireless broadband.

“It is a tragedy that 3G is so far behind in the United States. Asia and Europe have shown greater understanding of wireless technologies and what needs to be done to [further their] development. [The United States] hasn’t even had the 3G auctions yet,” Hindery said. “Our government is tied up in a standards debacle, sorting through CDMA [Code Division Multiple Access], TDMA [Time Division Multiple Access], GSM [Global System for Mobile communications]. Sadly, no regulator is [stepping forward] to segregate the healthy from the dying.”

Hindery warned that the U.S. is much too far behind to follow Europe’s lead in developing 2.5G wireless as an incremental path to 3G.

“For this country to go to 2.5G would not be good for the economy, honestly. We are having enough trouble defining the standards,” he said.

Offering a suggestion for the resolution of the standards confusion in the U.S., Hindery proposed that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission and Congress should step back and let the market choose a wireless standard.