Category Archives: Wireless Technology
As a strong proponent of preserving the Internet as a platform for communication and commerce kept free from burdensome regulation, I geeked out when I knew I would be spending time with the guy I perceived as leading the charge against our virtuous, sacred Internet.
I refer, of course, to the head of the International Telecommunication Union (“ITU”), Dr. Hamadoun Touré, who convened the World Conference on International Telecommunication (“WCIT”) late last year. I expected Dr. Touré to be the Internet’s equivalent of a goose farmer cultivating foie gras, force-feeding regulation down the Internet’s throat.
But for all the criticism heaped upon the ITU for its goals and process before, during and after the WCIT, I was surprised by a few of the notes Touré struck during his visit to Stanford University. During his keynote speech, Touré advocated for every single draconian proposed change to the world’s telecommunications laws, which was exactly what I expected from him. But what really stood out to me was his recognition of the need for updated communications infrastructure.
Touré spoke of all-IP (Internet protocol) networks springing up around the world and the need to embrace this technological advance as the next frontier in a hyper-connected world. He told the sold-out crowd that nations around the world are installing these IP networks with great success, spawning the creation of exciting micro-economies that didn’t previously exist. Touré implied that the U.S. has an opportunity to lap the rest of the world in terms of installing all-IP networks. Extrapolating on Touré’s statement, the U.S. must speed the transition in order to continue to stay ahead of the curve domestically while retaining our competitive edge globally.
Interestingly, while Dr. Touré seems to prescribe regulation as the solution to virtually every problem facing the Internet, his answer to the question of how to encourage faster and greater deployment of IP networks stands in stark contrast to that position. Oh the irony! He says the way to go is “light-touch regulation,” which limits the extent to which government should intervene with the management of the Internet ecosystem.
Obviously, I didn’t agree with everything Dr. Hamadoun Touré had to say over the course of the two-day Stanford symposium. However, I was thrilled to learn that the leader of the ITU is a vocal opponent of heavy regulations when it comes to transitioning the United States to the IP future we so desperately need.
That’s the best way to describe the current state of the wireless industry. Absolutely bananas.
Smartphones, tablets, LTE-enabled laptops, wirelessly connected cars… each day brings some new gadget, some new device tapping into the power of wireless networks. There are north of 300 hundred million people in the U.S., and according to Pew some 85% of them now own a cellphone. Of that group, 58% have upgraded to a smartphone. Do a little scribbling on the back of an envelope and you get something around 135 million people walking around with a wireless connection to the Internet in their pocket.
That’s a lot of people pushing out a lot of data. Billions of bytes, 24 hours a day. And all that traffic, all those bits and bytes and gigs, they all require spectrum to travel from points A to B, which is why wireless providers are currently on major shopping sprees. Investing billions to acquire more airwaves. Swapping frequencies in different markets. Working with the government to free up more spectrum in order to keep up with demand.
Earlier this month, T-Mobile merged with smaller provider MetroPCS. Early last week, satellite TV provider DISH Network pitched north of $25 billion to acquire wireless provider Sprint — a bid above what Japanese company SoftBank had also offered for the company. And those are just the two most recent moves. As mobile broadband continues to explode in popularity, there are going to be many more deals to come.
Call it a free market frenzy. A wireless lollapalooza, even. As the Federal Communications Commission continues to creep toward its proposed spectrum incentive auctions — which will, hopefully, free up a ton more spectrum for wireless use — providers aren’t waiting around. They can’t afford to. The wireless industry is one of our most vibrant sectors, and a big reason for that is competition. Even the biggest players are constantly forced to invest billions in order to meet the demands of their customers.
In such a highly competitive environment, the best thing the government can do is keep things from slowing down. That starts with ensuring the FCC auctions are open to every player willing to make the investment in — and quickly put to use — newly freed up airwaves. Hitting that mark will bring the government the most bang for its spectrum buck. It will also provide customers and the tech community with more robust networks. Ones that are able to keep up with innovations just around the corner.
The government can also help by encouraging wireless providers to work together in order to meet the challenge of ever increasing demand. As DISH’s flirting with Sprint shows, there’s no shortage of players hoping to get into the provider game. But even with the FCC’s auctions, it will take providers striking deals with each other to keep connections strong and the industry growing.
By focusing on smart oversight, regulators can protect consumers and maintain a vibrant wireless industry at the same time. That way, when it comes to the future of the industry,bananas will be just the beginning.
Today, speechwriters in the West Wing will put the finishing touches on President Obama’s State of the Union address. The State of the Union provides every President an unparalleled opportunity to showcase his policy priorities. And the opportunity is never more valuable than in an inaugural year, when it can set the tone for the next four. This year I hope the President speaks to the digital economy and, specifically, California’s burgeoning tech sector.
In my dream scenario, the President’s speech will sketch a blueprint for building a stronger future for America. To me that means focusing some policies on Silicon Valley and San Francisco, still the headquarters of the new economy, a fact that Washington seems to forget from time-to-time. Tech-friendly policy initiatives will directly benefit the new economy, California, and the U.S. Take these, for example:
Give the app economy a boost. As consumers and businesses use more and more data, California’s burgeoning app economy could use a digital infrastructure upgrade, which could be accomplished by moving to all-IP networks across the country. A new Brookings Institution book by Robert Litan and Hal Singer, The Need for Speed: A New Framework for Telecommunications Policy for the 21st Century, offers a potential roadmap for a regulatory re-think that could help expedite the delivery of broadband to consumers and keep the new economy humming. Meanwhile, the federal government, under President Obama’s leadership, needs to speed the reallocation of underutilized spectrum, the invisible radio waves over which our connected devices communicate. If our telecommunications infrastructure clogs up like our freeways at rush hour, either because of inadequate spectrum or insufficient private investment, then our app economy will suffer.
CALinnovates and California-Based Tech Groups Ask FCC to Speed Modernization of Nation’s Communications Networks
|For Immediate Release
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
|Contact: Mike Montgomery
$14 Billion Additional Investment in Broadband Networks Means Big Things for Consumers and Innovators
|For Immediate Release
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
|Contact: Mike Montgomery
$14 Billion Additional Investment in Broadband Networks Means Big Things for Consumers and Innovators
CALinnovates’ new infographic says evolving consumer behavior demands private sector investment to expand communications infrastructure and support tech innovation
SAN FRANCISCO – California’s economic recovery will be bolstered by a recent announcement that AT&T plans to invest an additional $14 billion to expand and enhance its wired and wireless Internet Protocol (IP) broadband networks. For Californians looking for expanded access to the benefits of the Internet, this development signals great optimism for the future of communications, according to CALinnovates, a San Francisco-based high-tech advocacy group.
According to their 3-year investment plan, 300 million people will be covered by AT&T 4G LTE by the end of 2014, and millions more will have access to next-generation wireline IP broadband networks. CALinnovates Executive Director Mike Montgomery stated, “Connecting virtually everyone in the U.S. with high-speed Internet is a long stride in the right direction toward meeting the goal of President Obama’s National Broadband Plan. And we know that high-speed Internet connections, both wired and wireless, create the kind of jobs we urgently need right now.”
“Consumers, entrepreneurs and people everywhere are clamoring for more connectivity and faster speeds. It takes this kind of multi-billion dollar private sector investment to give people the high-speed connections they want and need,” said Montgomery. “Investment is the linchpin to staying ahead of the massive growth in consumer demand for speed, data capacity and devices and apps that are now central to our lives.”
A new CALinnovates infographic on its website documents how consumers are driving the market that is revolutionizing communications and creating skyrocketing demand for new technology that can handle more data than ever before. In describing the infographic, Montgomery said, “Consumers today want to be connected everywhere in every way possible. But, we can’t take for granted the robust high-speed networks that are necessary to carry the innovations that are driving the economy and improving our lives. Those networks require mega investments to keep them growing and improving.”
“Continued investment to build the communications infrastructure of the future is what will keep the U.S. and Silicon Valley ahead of the innovation curve,” he said.
On my penultimate trip to D.C., it took far longer to find a cab to Dulles than I anticipated. Once I flagged one down, I thought the stress of the mad dash was essentially over. I was wrong. About a mile away from the airport, I asked my driver if he accepted credit cards, as I couldn’t cover the fee in cash. Much to the surprise of few in Washington, the gruff cabbie said “no,” that he did not take credit cards. He did, however, offer me one option, which felt more like an ultimatum. I could get out of the taxi, shuffle down a flight of stairs, bank left and use an inconveniently-placed ATM. After withdrawing my cash, I could sprint back to the car and exchange my money for my luggage. What a deal.
On my last trip to Washington, I had learned my lesson. Two lessons, actually. The first was to carve out time for an anticipatory trip to the ATM. The second lesson was to download the Uber app on my smartphone.
Anyone looking for evidence that the esoteric and wonky is becoming increasingly important in mainstream politics need look no further than the theatrical launch of the iPhone 5.
Preorders for the latest magical device from Apple have sold out. Numbers released by the Pew Internet & American Life Foundation earlier this week say that 66 percent of younger Americans already own an iPhone or some other smartphone. By some estimates, more than 50 billion devices will wirelessly connect to each other by 2020 – that’s more than seven times the number of human beings on the planet. Wireless technology already also connect our cars, our utility meters, and even devices implanted in our bodies.
There’s no doubt fall is a great season for sports fans. With the MLB playoffs and football season around the corner, fantasy drafts, trash-talking and tailgate recipe research is in full swing online. Thanks to technological advances, sports and sports fans have gone mobile as sports enthusiasts, like other consumers, embrace connected devices in just about every aspect of their lives.
Online video sites such as MLB.TV allow fans to stream every game online. A recent MLB Advanced Media chart shows that from the 2011 to 2012 baseball seasons, online viewership on only desktops fell by almost half, and viewership via a combination of desktops, smartphones, Xboxes and other connected devices nearly doubled. And for many fans that only stream NFL games online, providers now offer online viewing packages, sending streaming videos of games to mobile devices.
TV ads illustrate the opportunities of wireless technology – sneak a peek at the score while you’re waiting to order dinner, watch your favorite team while you’re on a trip away from home – but as we embrace how technology supports greater connectivity in every aspect of our lives, there is another question at hand: How do all the possibilities in online technology impact the consumer experience?
People are streaming video at an unprecedented rate on an array of devices, creating a surge in wireless data traffic. All indications are that investment in network infrastructure is strong as providers strive to give customers more of what they want. But in order for consumers to enjoy high-quality video without loading bars and interruptions, we need wireless spectrum, the airwaves that carry data over wireless networks. The problem is only a small percentage of available spectrum has been allocated for commercial wireless use.
With skyrocketing consumer demand, the current spectrum supply just won’t meet consumer needs. Spectrum is projected to be maxed out by 2013.
This isn’t an issue that can be allowed to languish in the off-season. The federal government must take immediate steps to release more spectrum for consumer use to better meet their needs. In areas of health care and education, the consequences of not doing so are more serious than a Facebook post touting the winning field goal. 21st century policies must encourage innovation and private investment in our network infrastructure so that consumers can continue to enjoy all of technology’s possibilities today and in the future.
It usually takes fresh thinking to bring about positive changes in government, and sometimes it takes fresh faces. We had a great example of that in Silicon Valley last week as Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit Pai, the two new Commissioners at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), visited with a coalition of technology business leaders to discuss ways to foster innovation and economic growth in tech industries, particularly telecommunications.
What made this visit so refreshing is that it involved two senior regulators going to Silicon Valley to listen to entrepreneurs and innovators and better understand the needs of the high-tech community. To make business work and to keep entrepreneurs innovating, the right business environment must be in place – an environment that promotes and accelerates the invention and application of new devices and technologies. The FCC is key to helping establish an environment that promotes regulatory certainty to enable growth and innovation throughout the entire telecom ecosystem.
In recent speeches and statements, both of these Commissioners have addressed the need for quicker decision making by the FCC and leadership to advance infrastructure investment throughout the industry. For example, Commissioner Pai recently stated that “the FCC should be as nimble as the industry we oversee”, he said the FCC should ensure that it isn’t a barrier to investment and innovation – by making well thought out but quicker decisions in order to spur broadband investment, facilitate growth and create jobs in telecom.
Commissioner Rosenworcel acknowledged during her visit, how the high tech sector promotes innovation with speed and alacrity. After meeting with industry leaders, Commissioner Rosenworcel noted that “[t]he digital economy is growing fast and there are lessons to learn from its energy.” Technology changes rapidly – new devices are invented, new applications are created, new services are brought online and new opportunities enrich consumers’ lives.
To keep our high tech sector growing and innovating, the nation’s policymakers should ensure that we eliminate unnecessary and burdensome barriers that innovators and entrepreneurs face when deciding to invest and deploy in the next generation of facilities, services and applications. In order to continue our leadership role in the deployment of advanced broadband services, the high tech sector needs regulatory certainty, and quick FCC decision making. A strong, bipartisan approach will be needed to set the right policies for our high tech economy to thrive. Fortunately for the FCC, two Commissioners last week took the time to witness what is needed first hand and to listen to the experts — and who came back to DC showing that they understand the needs of our Nation’s high tech community.
We look forward to new and exciting prospects for consumers in technology, and we look forward to the continued great work of Commissioners Pai and Rosenworcel.