Just like Tom Cruise’s character in the movie “Top Gun,” your customers “feel the need for speed” in their Internet connections and networks. A recent FCC report on high-speed Internet access showed that broadband Internet access increased by 55 percent in the United States in 2002. The number of businesses, households and individuals with high-speed Internet access will continue to increase along with the demand for services that take advantage of the increased speed. Speed is a driver in the voice/data/video (VDV) market and the need for it will create new business opportunities for the electrical contractor.

Broadband is the term used to describe a high-speed Internet connection. A broadband connection allows the user to access the Internet with greater speed and reliability than a traditional dial-up modem using a telephone line. Broadband connections include cable modems, digital subscriber lines (DSL), fixed and mobile wireless and satellite uplinks and downlinks, among others. These technologies allow large amounts of data to be transferred in a short amount of time, which makes data-intensive applications such as videoconferencing practical. An example of an emerging technology that is being made possible by broadband is the convergence of voice and data services on the same network, referred to as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) or Voice over Local-Area Network (VoLAN).

Broadband used to be associated with a fixed “wired” installation. This is no longer the case as broadband connections are becoming increasingly available to users on the go. Wi-Fi or IEEE 802.11b provides a wireless broadband connection anywhere a “hot spot” is available, including office buildings, coffee shops, hotels, airports and other places. New notebook and tablet computers as well as handheld personal computers (HPC) are being shipped with wireless networking capabilities built in as a standard feature. In addition, Web-enabled cell phones with the ability to connect to the Internet through the cell phone network are now available. Broadband is rapidly evolving to the point where users can have a broadband connection anywhere they are and at anytime they want.

Why broadband?

Broadband Internet connections allow users to take advantage of Internet services that are not otherwise practical or possible. For businesses, broadband provides the opportunity for the business to become more fully integrated and connected through day-to-day data exchange as well as improved employee communications. With broadband, remote offices can communicate easily and economically, whether they are across the street or across the globe. Broadband connections also allow employees to successfully work from home or wherever they are on the road. In addition, broadband provides businesses the opportunity to get closer to both customers and suppliers, which can improve both quality and profitability.

Increasing broadband connections for households means a greater market for Internet services. Broadband enhances the user’s Internet experience and is considered a factor in the increasing number of people using the Internet. Broadband to the home is making many new services possible that were not previously practical. Broadband is providing new in-home entertainment options such as the ability to download and view programming at any time, advanced interactive gaming, virtual shopping tours and others. Standalone appliances will be a thing of the past as ranges, refrigerators, washers, dryers and others become networked together to allow remote monitoring and control. Home automation and security will also increase, adding the ability to remotely monitor the well being of children and pets.

Broadband and you

The need for a speedy Internet connection translates into a business opportunity for your firm. This business opportunity includes not only wired but wireless installations for businesses and homeowners alike. Your business customers need the infrastructure to allow them to deliver the information and services that their customers want and need. This means that they need your help installing new systems as well as upgrading and replacing existing infrastructure.

Single- and multifamily residential is another important growth market that the electrical contractor should consider. As discussed above, broadband in the home is no longer just for the family computer. Entertainment equipment such as game consoles and appliances will all need to be connected to the Internet via a broadband connection. Structured cabling systems will be needed to deliver a variety of voice/data/video services throughout the home. This market includes both new construction and retrofit and is no longer just for high-end homes but for homes of all sizes, types and locations. EC

GLAVINICH is an associate professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering at The University of Kansas and is a frequent instructor for NECA’s Management Education Institute. He can be reached at 785.864.3435 or tglavinich@ku.edu.