Fixed Broadband Network Performance Key To U.S. Productivity

Global CEO of Telecoms at umlaut SE, part of Accenture, offering consulting and engineering end-to-end services to clients worldwide.

We are closing in on two years into the Covid-19 pandemic.

We have seen a massive shift in wireless and Wi-Fi network usage, as hundreds of millions of people across the planet have shifted from life in an office or on a college campus to a work-and-learn-from-home paradigm. 

Mobile network operators (MNOs), internet service providers (ISPs) and cable operators in the U.S. and abroad have worked hard to keep up with the sweeping customer usage pattern changes, as we all take online meetings and conference calls from home throughout the business and school day.

Fixed broadband networks play a critical role in the ever-increasing need for this broadband connectivity. Fixed networks are just that: Unlike wireless networks (with the key feature of mobility), fixed networks are stationary. This is where Wi-Fi technology comes in. We all need good connectivity in our homes to access the internet, our emails, online meetings and a number of other productivity tools. Wi-Fi is a good option, provided you have:

• Strong enough connectivity for multiple devices (you and your children/students).

• High-speed broadband.

Wi-Fi tends to lack mobility and, most importantly, security compared to wireless networks. 

Our company’s latest fixed broadband performance assessment conducted in November 2021 shows the U.S. has significant opportunities for improvement in fixed broadband performance. What do these opportunities look like? Based on our industry de facto standard methodology — which features a 1,000-point testing system and pulls data from a massive database that includes 4.8 billion fixed line users worldwide in over 140 countries — the fixed broadband performance in the U.S. ranks 25th in the world. The top five countries are Switzerland (980 points), South Korea and Ireland (both at 972 points), Iceland (956) and Singapore (953). Rounding out the top 10 are the U.K. (952), the Netherlands (948), Spain (942), Sweden (939) and Norway (933). The U.S. came in with a score of 895. (Note: These scores represent the highest-ranked broadband operator’s ranking by country for the purpose of comparison.)

In terms of throughput, there are nine countries in the world that provide fixed broadband download speeds over 100 Mbps+ (megabits per second), with the top five countries providing at least 134 Mbps: Singapore, the U.S., Canada, Spain and Switzerland. Singapore, the U.S. and Canada all provide speeds closer to 200 Mbps.

Why is the 100 Mbps threshold important? Faster speeds provide a better user experience and enhance productivity. The recently passed $1 trillion-plus U.S. Infrastructure Bill adopted a threshold of 100 megabits per second for downloads. According to Consumer Reports, during the pandemic, upload speeds have been increasingly important as well, due to the increased reliance on video calls and teleconferences with co-workers. Slow upload speeds can negatively impact these communications and the user experience.

Given there is finite wireless network capacity, fixed network options are critical, especially due to Covid-19. The explosion in usage at home is driving a significant need for fixed network infrastructure improvements. For consumers to take advantage of fixed broadband networks to their full capacity, here are the three things consumers need to keep in mind.

1. Do your homework: Learn about the different equipment vendors that your ISP uses and the Wi-Fi signal quality from that equipment to maximize your download speeds and internet experience.

2. Empower yourself: Understand your ISP options. Shop around to understand your download speed options.

3. Upgrade your devices: With new technology advancements, device upgrades become necessary to take full advantage of the network offerings. This is especially important as remote work is expected to continue to be critical for the foreseeable future.

In summary, the reliance on fixed broadband networks will be critical moving forward, as the work-from-home model is here to stay in some shape or form. The performance of these networks is therefore critical to U.S. productivity.

To deliver the best experience, ISPs need to provide modems and Wi-Fi routers with the latest technology, features and speeds for optimal performance. Consistent, reliable connectivity is not negotiable to effectively work from home, while the kids are on their smart phones and tablets binging on streaming content or music services before and after school for entertainment … and of course to do their homework. Having the right service provider and the right equipment will generate the best experience.

Our productivity demands it.

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