The seismic energy unleashed along a fault line between the North American and Caribbean tectonic plates on January 12 was a sober reminder of the earth’s deadly and hidden powers.

The earthquake that began some 10 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, also drew attention to the country’s poverty and weak infrastructure.

Natural disasters can play havoc on life and telecommunications networks. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the earthquake in Haiti destroyed the link to the country’s one undersea fiber optical cable.

In such circumstances, equipment that orbits hundreds of miles above the earth’s surface has a distinct advantage. In news released on January 14, Intelsat said it responded to customer requests for assistance by establishing two networks to provide "critical communication links" supporting parties and relief efforts throughout the country.

More stress relief

Quite apart from geology, human forces also are playing their own role in stressing the business of telecommunications.

Demand for wireless services — Haiti itself had seen a rise in mobile phone use from 5 percent of its population in 2006 to 35 percent in 2009 — is fast outpacing revenue growth. As a result, business plans, particularly for mobile data, are under revision; and investors are placing a premium on complementary advertising systems.

Powerful trends also are impacting the cable access infrastructure. Two in particular, as noted by Comcast’s Jorge Salinger and John Leddy: a reduction in service group size and an increase in the number of QAM channels.

One way to look at the next-generation access architecture (NGAA) they outline in this article is as an attempt to harness the friction between those trends, existing CMTS infrastructure and both proven and promising capabilities to deliver very-dense edge QAM modulation.

Jonathan Tombes

Editor

The Daily

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