Never before has broadband quality of service (QoS), reliability and consistency played such a significant role as during the COVID-19 pandemic. And whilst there has been substantial expansion of broadband access across developed regions, disparities remain within individual countries. In fact, recent research indicates that only 51% of the global population currently has access to broadband coverage.
A lack of comprehensive broadband services can have severe consequences for consumer use and negatively impact business models, particularly when it comes to digital transformations in vertical industries (i.e., manufacturing, healthcare, automotive, etc.). Expanding broadband to under-served areas and to low-income families can help alleviate economic inequality. It’s also clear that accessibility to broadband is necessary for individuals to thrive in today’s digital economy.
It is with these factors in mind that the World Broadband Association (WBBA) was founded. The multilateral, industry-led association focuses on ensuring equal broadband access in regions around the world and providing leadership for continued innovation. Initiatives also address policy development, environmental sustainability and technology advances, such as future-proof networking. To be sure, broadband innovation will be a key enabler as organizations continue their own digital transformations.
Who can get involved in the WBBA?
The WBBA membership consists of key stakeholders representing telcos, industry verticals, policy makers, OTTs and investors, as well as software and hardware supply-side vendors. Members join the independent association to help guide the focus of broadband research, spearhead thought leadership and stage industry events throughout the year. All members are considered equal and encouraged to contribute to agenda content, custom research-creation and the overall direction of the WBBA.
“There was an agreement to form a new association to really look upstream at where broadband is going,” says Martin Creaner, Director General of the WBBA and former CEO of TM Forum. “More specifically, how broadband is used in industry and how to influence the acceleration of broadband so it achieves the potential that we all hope it has,” he adds.
Along with research intended to influence and benefit governmental policy and regulators, the WBBA will work closely with key industry stakeholders, including premier cloud providers and hyperscalers as well as equipment manufacturers. All these stakeholders recognize the necessity of building future-proof broadband networks and infrastructure to provide a foundation for new services development as well as financially sound business models.
Thought leadership, research, cutting edge focus-groups
The WBBA actively promotes thought leadership through its focus on important issues related to the growth of broadband and innovation, while it also works to influence industry regulations and policy. To that end, the association forms collaborative working groups to produce high-level case studies that analyze critical broadband issues and map out future pathways. For example, one of the working groups focuses on defining a generational roadmap of broadband. It seeks to clarify emerging capabilities and promote their value to consumers and vertical industries. The group also explores the diversity of broadband approaches in different countries related to regulatory, investment and national planning.
A second working group focuses on the key strengths of worldwide broadband technology. The group differentiates broadband excellence for every global region and shares case studies as templates that operators can emulate to achieve success in their respective geographic region. For example, the group explores ways to improve broadband delivery, enable new services and bolster revenue opportunities for operators while ensuring long-term ROI.
A third working group provides thought leadership in terms of environmental sustainability for broadband technology and the role that operators can play in realizing these goals. They include formulating ways for broadband technology to offer new sustainability approaches, such as confronting and reducing technology waste and byproducts that consumers and industries regularly produce.
Ensuring equal broadband access, sustainability, and future-proof networks
While the top priorities for the WBBA include organization viability through strong governance and a firm financial footing, it also establishes viable working-groups and grows membership by addressing key issues facing the broadband industry. The association not only aims to map a path to sustainable ROI for operators as they develop the future of broadband, but also focuses on access inequality.
A key priority for the WBBA is to unify industry stakeholders and ensure equality for global broadband access, increasing the benefits for both consumers and businesses. Operators also need to ensure a high degree of excellence when providing end-to-end experiences for users.
“These goals are increasingly important as deterministic, real-time networks become an integral part of broadband service delivery,” says Creaner. “One of the barriers to broadband centers on reliability in terms of guaranteed delivery. We need to ensure that we have future-proof networks and practices in place that support carbon goals,” he adds.
Maximizing the broadband infrastructure will not only serve more users, but also help operators and investors achieve the ROI necessary to make broadband deployments and operating models financially sustainable.
Author: Martin Creaner, Director General, World Broadband Association