US cities will enjoy increasing access to higher speed broadband, leaving rural areas stuck in the internet slow lane, a report from market analysts Gartner claims.
The report, Emerging Technology Analysis: Ultra-High-Speed Residential Broadband Internet, Global Consumer Services, said urbanised areas will benefit from download speeds of 50Mbps and faster while rural and less-populated areas will fall behind. This will open up significant opportunities for application developers and service providers that will change the way consumers experience video, and how they communicate, analysts said.
Fernando Elizalde, a principal research analyst at Gartner, predicted that where countries lagged, governments would come under pressure to use public funds to upgrade broadband infrastructure.
Fernando Elizalde said speed was a defining competitive advantage for network operators. This would encourage them to build faster networks to retain customers and attract new ones. This would happen first where populations were densest.
"Those markets where there are multiple carriers targeting the same customers or where there is strong telecom carrier versus cable television broadband competition, will move fastest," he said.
Fast downloads or streaming video and film would drive the acceleration of network speeds because people were prepared to pay for such content. The distribution of user-generated content through e-mail, social network sites, and video-sharing websites would also push demand for faster network speeds, he said.
Elizalde said governments could stimulate demand for bandwidth through state-sponsored broadband projects such as telemedicine, consumer telepresence and high-definition television.
Elizalde said factors that could slow the roll-out of high speed broadband included a lack of applications for which consumers would pay, lack of certainty over network sharing regulations, the possible need to upgrade the wiring in many houses, and the effect of fast wireless technologies such Long Term Evolution (LTE).
As the US struggles to define broadband and open the $7.2bn kitty to extend broadband access to unserved areas, Gartner analysts predict ultra high speed residential broadband will create a bandwidth divide over the next three to five years.
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