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Middle Mile Needs Expected to Explode with Higher Broadband Speeds 

While access networks continue to raise their speeds due to NTIA BEAD and other federal program requirements, middle mile infrastructure will have to increase in capacity to satisfy both more users and their ever-increasing needs for more broadband into the terabits per second (Tbps) range. Existing and new construction will also have to be able to provision and support multiple application types over IP, including 5G networks.

“As access networks are transformed to provide the requisite capacity to meet federal requirements, the middle mile networks will need to be transformed too,” said Rick Talbot, Principal Analyst, ACG Research. “People who have fiber services are using on average 191.6 megabits per second, according to Open Vault’s first quarter report. Cisco reports an annual growth rate for North America of 20% per year.”

Projecting over the next five years, by 2028 user bandwidth demand is projected to be around 225 Mbps per user, but middle mile network usage will increase not only in the amount of bandwidth per user but also through an increase in the total number of users being added through new networks being built today and tomorrow with BEAD funding and other federal programs, both in urban and rural areas.

Talbot’s modeling produces some staggering numbers for competitive and single-carrier fiber markets. “The introduction of these high-capacity services to all subscribers in the central office is going to cause the data aggregated to mushroom to a level of Tbps,” said Talbot. “The middle mile needs in a competitive market is around 1.57 Tbps, with a single carrier is 2.6 Tbps average. During busy times, traffic will be 55% more than the average.”

Surge traffic will boost traffic to 2.5 Tbps in competitive markets and 4.1 Tbps in a single-carrier fiber market, while rural telcos will need around 225 Gbps from middle mile networks to support around 600 users. Adding other services, such as 5G cellular support, over IP onto the same middle mile network will require additional bandwidth. “There will be a lot of 400G wavelengths in use,” said Talbot.

To learn more about Talbot’s projections for middle mile growth, listen to the latest Fiber For Breakfast podcast.