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Chapter Highlights from ITU Internet Reports 2003: Birth of Broadband

Chapter Four:  Using Broadband

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The Internet has already spawned the creation of a host of new applications and these are spreading from computers to other devices. Broadband accelerates this process.”

Having examined the development of broadband infrastructure and technologies, and the challenges involved in providing the service at a reasonable price, the next question to be posed is “what to do with it?” In short, how is broadband used today, and what are the implications for future uses, for market development and for users?

The Internet has already spawned the creation of a host of new applications, including web surfing, instant messaging, file sharing, e-commerce and e-mail. With the advent of broadband and its faster always-on connections, the possibilities for the development of such services are growing dramatically, opening the path to interactive applications, especially online games, virtual reality and other high-quality digital services.

Broadband arrives at a time when the revolutionary potential of the Internet has still to be fully tapped, and is serving to accelerate the process of integrating Internet technologies into everyday life. This growth in itself has numerous implications for issues such as intellectual property rights (IPR) and security, as more and more material is made available in digital form. It also comes at a time of technological convergence, so that computer applications are now spreading to other devices (mobile phones, television sets, etc.), and vice versa (for instance, entertainment on computers) (see Box 1).

The report provides an overview of current and future applications for broadband technologies, including consumer-oriented services such as Internet browsing, voice services (e.g. voice over broadband or Internet Protocol), entertainment and information supply. Specific public domain services are also examined, including e-government, e‑education and e-medicine, as well as e-commerce and business uses.

Broadband usage is of course interlinked with content and the evolution of models for the development and distribution of online content—raising associated regulatory and ethical issues—and possible bottlenecks in the commercialization and distribution of broadband services. These aspects are also examined in the report.

As regards Internet content, for example, IPR concerns enter strongly into play. With Internet content, the established IPR system has had to grapple with new areas of media diffusion. The IPR framework is being readapted, but much more work and negotiation will be necessary. With broadband, the type and quantity of content exchanged globally is set to increase drastically, raising the stakes even higher. In particular, since the well-known Napster case came to a head in 2000 over free music downloads; peer-to-peer (P2P) technologies have been seen as a threat by the commercial entertainment industry.

This problem is becoming even more apparent as broadband services allow a faster exchange of large files, allowing download of whole albums or even movies. The music industry alone claimed a loss of about 7 per cent in 2002 due to swapping of digital music, and the same is feared by the film and software industries.

Box 1: Internet TV and home networking in Japan

In the broadband era, personal computers and personal digital assistants (PDA) are not the only types of terminal for accessing the Internet. Since the advent of higher-speed networks, manufacturers have been developing various broadband terminals, which are thus far being used by only a minority of subscribers. Examples include video game consoles, Internet television (TV) appliances, set-top boxes (STB) and home servers.

In Japan, the Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications’ (MPHPT) latest annual random sample survey concluded that there were 3.64 million people who accessed the Internet either from their game console or from a television set in 2002, although the precise number of units in use is not known. Internet TVs started to emerge in 1999 in Japan, but the products available at the time did not attract many consumers. However, technology has evolved since then and the user interface has also improved substantially while prices have fallen.

Sony's Airboard was one of the first products and it provided a state-of-the-art wireless video device at the time of launch. Improvements added over the past three years culminated in the IDT-LF3 version, which was released in January 2003. Airboard was created as a wireless Internet tablet rather than as audiovisual equipment.

Compliant with the IEEE 802.11b “Wi-Fi” standard, it can be connected to the Internet at up to 11 Mbit/s. The device can be used almost anywhere (within a 30-metre radius) in the home or garden and even in the bathroom (with a protective cover). One can watch TV as well as capturing video images of choice from the programmes one watches for printing or sending on as e-mail attachments. The battery life is currently quite short, but with improvements expected in the near future, devices like these will certainly change the way an increasing number of people use video information.

An STB is defined as a device that is connected to a TV, permitting access to various content, including pay-per-view. Although there are many possible uses, STBs can also be used for broadband content distribution. Broadband subscribers can watch broadband video programmes on their TV with an STB. In Japan, BB Cable TV, for example, offers STBs to its subscribers as does the fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) service provider, Bbit-Japan. One of the main benefits to subscribers with STB is that they can enjoy higher quality video than those with only a PC.

A new development in 2002 was the emergence of home servers, comprising an integrated PC, DVD, TV, etc. Sharp’s Personal server (named HG-01S), launched in February 2003, is one example. It can interconnect a PC, mobile phone, TV, and other appliances. This device even enables the user to access their home network when absent from home, for example by setting the video timer via their mobile phone or watching recorded TV programmes on their PC.

Source: ITU case study on Broadband in Japan, at:



Relevant links

ITU Country Case Studies on Broadband

 ITU Workshop on Promoting Broadband  

ICT Success Stories 

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

Visions of the Information Society: Intellectual Capital in the Information Society [PDF]

Kazaa Media Desktop

Netvigator Broadband Services, Hong Kong

Live Radio on the Internet  

Opportunities and barriers to the use of broadband in education, Broadband Stakeholders Group [PDF]


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