Broadband Trends and Industry Predictions 2024 | Corning

As we delve into BEAD planning in 2024, the expansion of broadband access and digital equity, and the increasing importance of network capacity and resiliency will take center stage.

Darin Howe
Published: December 7, 2023

For the broadband industry, the keyword for 2024 is "opportunity." 

If 2023 was a year of setting the stage for the implementation of the U.S. government's historic broadband infrastructure investments, then 2024 will be the year the curtain finally goes up. States will be submitting their final proposals, beginning the competitive bidding process, and starting to award subgrantees. Once that’s all in place the buildouts will begin. 

As the industry focuses intensely on the next steps for the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program, we'll hear a lot more about rural deployment, and about the most cost-effective ways to efficiently bring broadband to less dense areas. We'll also hear a lot about network capacity and resiliency, as we look to build the most future-ready networks possible.

At Corning, we're proud to be at the center of it all, because we believe everyone should have access to the reliable, high-speed connections enabled by fiber, no matter where they live. Here's a little more about what we're watching in the year ahead: 

I. BEAD Planning Accelerates

In the realm of BEAD planning, 2023 was a year of laying the groundwork for the BEAD program, as state funding allocations were released, providing a tangible road map for the implementation of broadband initiatives across the country. By mid-year states were beginning the crucial task of developing their initial proposals, outlining key details such as eligible entities, bid processes, and location definitions. This process was an essential first step towards establishing a clear framework for the implementation of the BEAD program at the state level. By the end of 2023, states will submit their initial proposals to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) for review. This crucial step will pave the way for final proposals due for submission in mid to late 2024. 

In comparison, 2024 is poised to be a transformative year. As the BEAD program gets off the starting blocks and states prepare to submit their final proposals to the NTIA, we anticipate a surge in network planning and engineering. However, these prospective network buildout initiatives are likely to encounter several challenges. Permitting and pole attachment hurdles, a potential shortage of skilled labor, and deployment complexities will require strategic navigation for states, network operators and manufacturers.

Training and workforce recruitment will take center stage as BEAD initiatives commence in 2024. With the need to connect less dense, higher-cost locations, efficiency will be paramount. This calls for business model shifts, process improvements, and deployment of new, labor-saving, and cost-efficient technologies. At Corning, our legacy of innovation has focused on creating solutions that streamline network deployments by minimizing labor requirements. Recognizing the existing challenges in workforce availability, we anticipate that network suppliers will intensify their efforts to further simplify network deployment. Simultaneously, service providers are expected to accelerate their adoption of labor-saving solutions. This dual approach is set to define the future of network deployment, making it more efficient and accessible.

II. Network Capacity

In 2024, network planning trends are expected to underscore the critical role of "middle mile" connectivity. With state and federal funding programs attracting considerable interest, the emphasis is on bridging the gap between last-mile networks and long-haul networks that connect to the global internet. As home service speeds escalate beyond 1-gigabit symmetrical and usage intensifies, middle-mile networks will need to keep pace with access network enhancements to prevent potential bottlenecks and capacity issues.

As Nokia CEO Pekka Lundmark points out, data traffic on the world's networks is expanding by an estimated 20% to 30% annually. This underscores the need for robust and future-ready network planning. XGS-PON adoption is set to continue its rapid ascent, and with the advent of 25G PON from Nokia and 50G PON on the horizon, broadband networks are long-term assets designed to support consumers’ future needs.

Earlier this year, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel kicked off a deep dive into the state of broadband across the U.S. to see if broadband is being deployed quickly and fairly enough to reach every American. As part of her notice of inquiry, the chairwoman also proposed to increase the minimum speed standard to 100/20 Mbps and set a gigabit future goal of 1 Gbps/500 Mbps. With newer technological advancements enabling ever-faster broadband speeds, it's essential that our standards keep pace in order to ensure optimal performance and satisfaction for all users.

This puts operators at a critical juncture, where they need to make pivotal decisions about architecture and technology while juggling cost and ROI tradeoffs. To minimize long-term operational and maintenance costs and avoid the unnecessary expenses of overbuilding or upgrading fiber infrastructure to meet customer demand, foresight in network planning is essential. 2024 will be a year where strategic, far-sighted network planning will be crucial to meet the ever-growing demand for high-speed and reliable connectivity and we should seek higher, symmetric speeds as the standard.

III.  Network Resiliency

In 2024, the focus on network resiliency, reliability, and availability will be more prominent than ever. As the FBA and RVA study "The Status of U.S. Broadband: The Growing Preference to Fiber Broadband" highlighted, fiber broadband is the clear winner when it comes to speed and reliability.

Consumer surveys also underscore the importance of reliability. A Cisco survey revealed that as consumers increasingly adopt a smarter digital lifestyle, reliability, security, and sustainability emerge as key needs. Given the escalating need for higher speeds and superior reliability, it's imperative to extend fiber access to all, without compromise. Fiber is not just future-ready, but also scores high on reliability and speed, making it the preferred choice for consumers.

However, as more homes are passed and connected, operational aspects like maintenance and repair work will increase. This could pose challenges, especially if workforce shortages persist. Therefore, careful planning and quality installation practices are key to ensuring build quality and minimizing future repair and maintenance needs. Network operators should look for solutions that can reduce truck rolls and operational expenditures.

In 2024, we may witness more networks transitioning underground as part of hardening efforts. While this may be more costly, it's a strategic move to enhance network resilience and minimize damage from environmental factors like storms, wildfires, and other natural disasters.

Lastly, optical fiber boasts superior sustainability benefits making it the most resilient technology available. A recent study by Corning demonstrates that fiber optics consume significantly less power, reducing the carbon footprint and operating costs. Additionally, the high density and scalability of fiber optics, coupled with its longevity, result in less material waste over time, further enhancing its sustainability credentials.

In conclusion, as we look ahead to the broadband and carrier landscape in 2024, several key trends emerge. As BEAD planning accelerates, the expansion of broadband access and digital equity will take center stage, highlighting the need for increasing network capacity to support growing data demands. Network resiliency will also be a significant focus: As the preference for fiber broadband grows due to its speed and reliability, providers will need to prioritize service quality and robust network designs to meet consumers' expectations. 

In short, there's a lot to look forward to for the carrier space in the year ahead, and as the industry leader in fiber optic solutions, we look forward to supporting these trends.

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Darin Howe

Darin Howe is an Application Solutions Manager for FTTH and 5G Applications with Corning Optical Communications LLC. Darin’s primary focus is on the roadmap and development of new FTTH and 5G Solutions to meet customer needs and solve important problems. He has 15 years of experience in the telecommunications industry, working primarily with Outside Plant cable and FTTx deployments. Darin has served in various roles at Corning including Field Engineer, FTTH Project Manager, Product Specialist and Market Development Manager. Prior to working for Corning, Darin served for 8 years as a Signal Corps Officer in the United States Army and Army Reserve. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Systems Engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point and a Master of Business Administration from Wake Forest University.

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