Also in this roundup: Nextgenaccess and Bluebird complete fiber builds; Comcast forecasts a Q2 COVID-19 hit; state lawmakers plea for broadband bucks in US; and New Zealand commits millions to rural broadband.
New numbers from ThousandEyes suggest that broadband is buckling under the weight of COVID-19. Despite some early optimism that networks were seeming to sustain the additional bandwidth of people streaming and Zooming the days away, recent data shows that outages have reached record highs in the last week. According to ThousandEyes, global outages spiked 77% since early April, and UK outages alone increased 62% since last week. One notable fail was Tata Communications' infrastructure across Europe and India, affecting 80 network interfaces across multiple regions and cities.
In Q1 earnings, Comcast reported a gain of 477,000 broadband customers: That's over 100,000 more subs than in the same quarter last year, and it marks the company's best quarter in 12 years for this particular category. However, not all is rosy. As Comcast warns in its press release, due to "significant deterioration in domestic economic conditions in recent weeks and by the costs associated with our support of customer connectivity ... we expect the impacts of COVID-19 to increase in significance in the second quarter 2020 and to have a material adverse impact on our consolidated results of operations over the near-to-medium term." Significant stuff, indeed.
As the United States Congress works on negotiating terms for the next COVID-19 relief package, while simultaneously trying to figure out whether or not the body is actually in session and grappling with the revelation that the government somehow lacks enough tests for 100 senators [Ed. note: *cue internal existential screaming*] some local lawmakers continue to take matters into their own hands to get rural communities connected. This week, a Minnesota House committee approved legislation to increase funding for high-speed broadband statewide. The bill, authored by Rep. Rob Ecklund (DFL International Falls) and which still has to cycle through committees, would invest $10 million in the Minnesota's Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program to expand high-speed broadband, plus an additional $8 million to provide students with equipment for remote learning and to reimburse school districts for costs to provide broadband access, as well as an additional $2 million to reimburse healthcare providers and counties for providing COVID-19-related telehealth services.
Efforts are also underway in New Zealand to get rural communities connected. In light of the COVID-19 crisis, the government announced it's investing NZ$15 million (US$9.1 million) in rural network improvements, including upgrading existing mobile towers, upgrading wireless backhaul and installing external antennas on homes. The New Zealand government says that the upgrades will first prioritize rural areas where there are large numbers of school-age children lacking access.
In happy fiber news, two providers got some things done this week, with both Bluebird Networks and Nextgenaccess completing builds in the US and UK, respectively. Bluebird, a Midwestern telecommunications provider, completed a 21-mile fiber infrastructure expansion in Joplin, Missouri. And in the UK, Nextgenaccess finished deploying 41.6 miles of fiber, connecting from Bristol to South Wales. In a press release, Nextgenaccess said the fiber network is immediately available and "offers alternate carriers, telecom operators, service providers and resellers a cost-effective carrier independent solution for delivering ultrafast broadband to thousands of currently underserved SME businesses across the region."
It faces an uphill climb, but Viasat is exploring a plan to build 300 low-earth orbit satellites that could deliver low-latency broadband service and qualify for the US Rural Digital Opportunities Fund.
Over the next two years, approximately 60% of service providers (both large and small) will adopt virtualization on a wide scale across their networks, according to the latest survey report from Ovum. Why are providers making these moves? Is there an easy way to start?
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Current network infrastructure and the move to virtualization
Benefits and challenges of network virtualization
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