Vol. XXV, 3rd Quarter
July to September 2007
Broadband technology recently attracted a swell of national curiosity. What previously sounded cryptic techno-jabber suddenly assumed a celebrity that oddly outstripped its life-enhancing applications.
In advanced societies, broadband technology is widely acknowledged and embraced as a high-speed tool to promote innovation and economic security. Somber governments look far into the future by creating regulatory systems calculated to spur investments and competition in the capital-intensive broadband industry now. These include generous tax incentives, quicker capital equipment depreciation, broadband infrastructure deregulation, and simplified rights-of-way standards that should be adopted by all relevant regulatory agencies, among others.
In other words, a forward-looking government strives to roll out the appropriate technology policy designed to unleash the maximum productive possibilities that broadband technology can deliver. Basic among these—in a country that talks big about young and dynamic technology savvy English speaking workforce along with huge global labor pool—are business process outsourcing, distance education, interactive gaming, real time video conferencing, broadcast TV and radio, voice over IP, and even remote medical procedure, among many things.
But for many in the Philippines, the first two questions that stream up and down are:  What is broadband technology? and  Which broadband technology, if ever?
Among many descriptions, broadband technology is an “always-on” gateway to Internet-connected services delivered at lightning speeds. Next, in a sprawling archipelago like the Philippines, which broadband technology to adopt to provide “triple play” services of voice, data, and video cannot just be easily decided over a few rounds of golf.
Briefly, broadband solutions can be classified into fixed line and wireless technologies. Fixed line solutions include hybrid fiber coax: cable TV and cable modems, digital subscriber line [DSL], broadband power line [BPL], and fiber to the home/curb [FTTH/C]. Wireless technologies are broadly categorized into those that require line-of-sight [LOS] and non-line-of-sight [NLOS].
There is high rate of innovation and advances in wireless solutions, which include microwave links, MMDS [multichannel multipoint distribution service], LMDS [local multipoint distribution service], FSO [free space optics], Wi-Fi [wireless fidelity], WiMax [worldwide interoperability for microwave access], Satellite, and 3G.
In spite the impressive features each broadband technology holds, each has also peculiar limitations in terms of bandwidth capacity, coverage, reliability, and cost. In short, there is not one solution that fits everyone’s needs, real or imagined.
But, again, in a society that continually wrestles with far more basic life and development issues, there are customarily also fundamental questions of technology access and affordability. These demand more than sound bytes that gratify random impulse.
The nation needs broadband technology alright. But this need should be very carefully weighed and openly discussed or debated as an imperative step in designing a mission-oriented technology policy. That’s because any technology of such critical and potentially pervasive impact can only be abundantly useful in an environment that sufficiently understands it.