Cable operators face a catch-22. To attract premium subscribers they have to sell broadband service on the merits of the rich, multimedia experiences that a high-speed connection provides. Unfortunately, to support those rich experiences, they have to hope that most people won’t be overzealous in using them.
Mark Cuban believes this means the Internet is dead. Om Malik believes that unless infrastructure gets sexy again we’re doomed to suffer serious consequences from inadequate, asymmetric networks. And Jeff Baumgartner poses the question: Should operators at least be clear about the limits of their broadband service?
The point is that bandwidth demand is essentially infinite, and while operators can satisfy a majority of subscribers, there will always be those on the edge who are pleading for more. As long as the unhappy people stay on the edge, the scale is tipped in operators’ favor. But inevitably operators must provide more bandwidth to keep the number of unhappy people from growing.
I say infrastructure is sexy. It’s sexy because bandwidth demand isn’t going down so business can only go up. That’s true of the bandwidth-management technology operators are using today and it’s true of the continued innovation that must and is taking place, from decoupled CMTS to RF delivery over fiber optics. Sure front-end applications are what get consumers excited, but it’s infrastructure that will always be in demand, even as today’s hot Web 2.0 app fades in the light of tomorrow’s next big thing.