Is mobile broadband cheaper to roll-out?
In the middle of towns the capital costs of installing a mobile phone mast and keeping the hardware up to the latest standards will be quickly recouped, but for rural villages with perhaps just a few hundred properties in the range of the cell tower things are likely to be very different.
The Finish research firm Omnitel has published a report suggesting that the capital expenditure for mobile broadband will amount to 1000 euro per subscriber. This takes into account the costs of having to upgrade backhaul from the cell towers as peoples use of mobile broadband grows beyond just buying a few music tracks and online shopping and upgrades to hardware to support faster speeds as they become available.
A usage figure of 10GB per month is suggested as a figure that some mobile broadband users may exceed, which suggests that land line based broadband still has a big advantage for those whose usage encompasses tasks that over a month add up to a lot of bandwidth. £10 to £15 on a mobile link tends to buy you 3GB of usage, whereas with ADSL and cable you will generally get 10 to 20GB or a lot more, and in addition you do not have to suffer resampling of images to a lower quality level.
A figure of £29bn has widely being touted as the cost for providing fibre to the home for the UK, and with some some 25 million households this is ~£1100 (1350 euro). What makes mobile broadband more attractive is that it is not starting from scratch, i.e. many billions have been spent to reach the notional 80% coverage so far, and it seems the mobile firms are keen to spend more. The low usage volumes on accounts and excess usage charges that can result in a bill of £100's are perhaps a good reason for this.
The biggest issue in the next generation broadband arena is whether the decision makers will consider just the short term benefits of a technology that can satisfy a USO to meet a political promise, or look towards something that will outlast the working lifes of those making the decisions.