In the race to provide broadband to every far-flung corner of the planet, network reach and bandwidth should be prioritised over the type of access technology used, claimed Alcatel-Lucent on Wednesday.
"The user doesn't care how they're connected," said Dave Geary, president of Alcatel-Lucent's wireline division, at Broadband World Forum in Amsterdam.
When it comes to specific access technologies, whether it is fixed, wireless, fibre or copper, he said all options are on the table, "provided it gives availability and bandwidth".
"The timeline and ultimate cost of rolling out FTTP [fibre-to-the-premises] to everyone is unrealistic at present," he said.
Geary called for a pragmatic approach to broadband deployment, particularly since "the economic environment has made life more challenging for operators".
"We need to leverage everything at our disposal," he said, whether that means rolling out LTE, fibre, or upgrading copper networks using technologies like vectoring.
Geary also revisited the industry's recent achievements, and highlighted that despite the ongoing extension of networks and growth in uptake, the telecoms industry has barely scratched the surface.
"80% of consumers in the U.S. have access to high-speed broadband. As impressive as that statistic is, there's still around 75 million who do not have high-speed broadband," he said.
"In Asia there are 1.2 billion broadband connections," he continued. "That's still just 25% [of the population] – there are still 3 billion people in Asia who don't have broadband."
In fact, most of the world – some 4.5 billion individuals – still do not have broadband, said Geary. "These are the end users…who are still living with dial-up services or no connectivity at all."
In addition, there are also huge discrepancies in average connection speed, Geary said, ranging from Hong Kong, which boasts the highest with 42 Mbps, to Nepal, where the average connection speed is 1 Mbps.
"It is not enough to simply be connected, you also need bandwidth," he said, which necessitates the ongoing upgrade and deployment of international backbone networks.
"Our number one opportunity is to prioritise what's important, and what's important is getting the world connected," Geary concluded.