reality of the telecom business, and with end-users finding more
and more ways to consume bandwidth, network upgrades also
remain an ongoing reality. What technology choices are rural
broadband companies making when upgrading their networks,
and why? We talked with several NTCA members to find out.
Bandwidth Demand Keeps Climbing
Service providers are seeing considerably more customers opt for higher
broadband speeds than they did just one year ago, as shown in
NTCA’s annual “Broadband/Internet Availability Survey Report.”
In the 2015 report, the most popular speed among member
customers, chosen by 31.2% of them, was 10–25 Mbps. Just 7.7%
of customers subscribed to services at speeds above 25 Mbps.
In 2016, 24% of customers were subscribing to 10–25 Mbps
service, and those choosing speeds above 25 Mbps had
jumped to 17%.
Various applications are driving bandwidth growth, but one
of the most important factors is streaming video from Netflix,
You Tube and others.
Netflix requires a minimum downstream speed of 500 kbps, but recommends
at least 1.5 Mbps or 3 Mbps for standard definition video and 5 Mbps for high-definition (HD) video. As Melissa Lease—marketing director for Mount Horeb
Telephone Co. (Mount Horeb, Wis.)—noted, however, “If a user has less than 3 Mbps
and they are streaming a video, it may buffer or reload several times” and “if multiple users are in the home and one person is watching Netflix and another is
using Facebook, the photos and videos may not load because they are maxing
out their bandwidth.”