CES 2016: Why the IoT needs fiber-optic broadband to succeed

There is a misconception that the Internet of Things requires a huge amount of bandwidth to the customer, and this panel continued to propagate that myth. 4K TV and telesurgery are not IoT applications. Most “things” connected to the network are sensors that require a small amount of bandwidth. Even aggregated, only a couple of Mbit/s of bandwidth is required even for video sensors. EBP mentions their SCADA network that consist of several sensors providing periodic small quantities of data in realtime. What is more vital to the IoT is latency and security more than broadband. Many IoT applications like SCADAs need extremely low latency in order to be effective. All applications require a focus on security. Many of the devices connected to the network will be inexpensive consumer devices made by several manufacturers. It is doubtful whether these manufacturers will have the expertise to implement adequate protection and encryption. The recent discovery of the vulnerability in the Ring doorbell is an example.

I can get by with a 56 Kbit/s modem for all of my IoT devices in my home if I exclude the video applications. Current network access technologies are sufficient to meet these needs. What is required for IoT are service classes different from best-effort to support the real time and near-real time applications. The fiber-based network is necessary to support the bandwidth and flexibility required over the long-term to support high bandwidth applications like multiple UHD video streams only my old colleague Kevin Morgan from ADTRAN properly addressed this need.

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A panel of fiber broadband experts speaking at CES 2016 in Las Vegas this week said the Internet of Things (IoT) will not only benefit from fiber-optic broadband, it will require it.

Katie Espeseth, vice president of new products for EPB – the Electronic Power Board in Chattanooga, Tennessee, responsible for building and maintaining one of the country’s most famous fiber-optic networks – explained that the country’s first gigabit-speed municipal broadband network was built to support an IoT application.

Tasked with maintaining power supply to the city, the EPB sought to deploy a series of supercomputers that would constantly monitor the power grid throughout the city. This called for an always-on, gigabit-speed internet service.

Today, the organization has 1,400 devices operating in the field, diagnosing problems on the power grid and re-routing power to resolve outages. Espeseth said the system has reduced power outage duration time by 55% to 60% since it was deployed. This would not be possible without a 100% fiber-optic support network, she said.

An added benefit was the ability to offer gigabit-speed broadband to homes and businesses in Chattanooga, which has driven revenue for the city and earned it the moniker “Gig City.” 

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About Mark Milliman

Mark Milliman is a Principal Consultant at Inphotonics Research driving the adoption and assisting local governments to plan, build, operate, and lease access open-access municipal broadband networks. Additionally, he works with entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to increase the value of their intellectual capital through the creation of strategic product plans and execution of innovative marketing strategies. With more than 22 years of experience in the telecommunications industry that began at AT&T Bell Laboratories, Mark has built fiber, cable, and wireless networks around the world to deliver voice, video, and data services. His thorough knowledge of all aspects of service delivery from content creation to the design, operation, and management of the network is utilized by carriers and equipment manufacturers. Mark conceived and developed one of the industry's first multi-service provisioning platform and is multiple patent holder. He is active in the IEEE as a senior member. Mark received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Iowa State University and M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.
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