Anatomy of a Broadband Business

With the ongoing influx of capital into global broadband projects [1,2,3] how the capital is to be deployed is coming under more scrutiny. Further, ensuring that the un/underserved are connected is a front most priority. Much of this effort relies on data and being able to identify those regions with little or no broadband service. Whilst there are some major shake ups in ease of delivering/accessing service with companies like SpaceX starting to commercialize Starlink, it remains to be seen the net impact on market penetration and the scalability of such solutions. Here, we will explore some of the technology categories which can be considered part of the makeup of a modern broadband company.

What are the mechanics of this?

The key is to break down the software, data and decisions into the following categories:

  1. Strategic ( > 1 year from now )
  2. Tactical ( < 1 year but > 1 month )
  3. Operational ( Now to < 1 month )

This concept borrows from the Supply Chain domain [4] where companies plan for capacities and demand then execute orders. This analogy can be used to consider the service delivery of broadband to subscribers. Further, companies like Uber and other on-demand transit have set the bar for user experience. What’s even more exciting is that the core technologies developed and utilized are based on Open Source.

Now that we understand our timeframes we also want to understand the interactions. These can be broken up into the following:

  1. Customer Outbound
  2. Customer Inbound
  3. Internal Capability
  4. Third Party Engagement

There are many parts of the process that begin before the shovels hit the ground that enable a smooth execution to give customers broadband service. But it is paramount to understand the key systems, technology and human factors at play.

Let’s get real…

Let’s examine an example, “A customer wants to sign-up for service so that they can get a higher speed connection to work from home”

What are the touch points in this example? It probably looks something like this:

  1. Customer does a Bing search … Ok great you made it this far! Maybe they Google it :)

So this already assumes that the Broadband Company has some kind of campaign or that they can get discovered via search. This is not guaranteed. The traditional way is to perhaps spend $$$ on marketing or doing high touch word of mouth/door knocking. A particularly effective strategy has been community advocates.

  1. They found your website, what now…

Can they determine their service and sign-up via your website? Do they need to call? How will you assess their serviceability? Are they doing a pre-sign up like a Google Fiberhood?

  1. OK so they signed up and gave you a credit card, when do they get connected?

Great you got the $! Now who will construct the connection and from where. Then how will it be lit?

  1. Great, they are now a gigabit customer with service, how do you keep them?

How does the service connect to the installation record, billing system and customer relationship?

This very small example touches every part of the business and the same is true for each other interaction. In future examples we will explore Construction Companies, Equipment Vendors, Manufacturers, Financiers/Investors, Future Service Regions and even the FCC to name a few.

The key connector for all these is Data and how it is created, consumed, distributed and acted on. Much like plumbing a house, a Broadband Business needs to make sure all the points are connected and that there are no leaks.

Diagram of a Broadband Company

Below is a sketch of possible systems and their utility. It is by no means comprehensive but it covers some key areas. Perhaps, a current Broadband Business has strong opinions on this and can contribute too.