Because every American
should have access
to broadband Internet.

The Internet Innovation Alliance is a broad-based coalition of business and non-profit organizations that aim to ensure every American, regardless of race, income or geography, has access to the critical tool that is broadband Internet. The IIA seeks to promote public policies that support equal opportunity for universal broadband availability and adoption so that everyone, everywhere can seize the benefits of the Internet - from education to health care, employment to community building, civic engagement and beyond.

The Podium

Blog posts tagged with 'Capacity'

Thursday, November 08

The Netflix Flood

By Brad

At CNet, Don Reisinger highlights a new report showing the effect streaming video service Netflix has on America’s Internet traffic:

Netflix users are turning into the biggest data hogs in North America, a new report suggests.

The report from Sandvine, a company that sells Internet traffic-management systems, finds that Netflix use accounts for 33 percent of all downstream traffic in North America during the peak hours between 9 p.m. and 12 a.m. By contrast, Amazon and Hulu only account for 1.8 percent and 1.4 percent of downstream traffic, respectively.

That’s a lot of movies and TV shows.

Friday, July 27

The Mobile Games

By Brad

At Bloomberg, Kelly Blessing and Amy Thomson highlight the major steps being taken to ensure mobile networks in London stay up and running during the major influx of people from the Olympics:

British telecommunications companies serving London’s Olympic Park say they have created a wireless system capable of handling a large city. Legions of iPhone-toting visitors are about to put them to the test.

Annual smartphone purchases have risen almost fivefold worldwide since the Beijing Olympics four years ago, according to researcher IDC, and many fans and athletes in the 2.5-square kilometer (0.97-square mile) park in east London will be watching video on iPads, chatting with friends and e-mailing photos as they take in the games that kick off with today’s opening ceremony.

Monday, June 11

Perils of the Spectrum Crunch

By Brad

In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson laid out the problems his and other wireless companies face when it comes to the coming spectrum crunch:

The demand for mobile data is now roughly doubling every year. Smartphones use 30 times more data than the cellphones they replaced. Meanwhile, the supply of spectrum supporting mobile devices has remained the same since 2008.

That means we’re in a race against time. The demand for spectrum will exceed supply by 2013, according to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) estimates. If that happens, the speed of the mobile revolution will slow down. Prices, download times and consumer frustration will all increase. And at a societal level we risk jeopardizing the future of our nation’s vital mobile Internet infrastructure, which is generating jobs and investment on a scale well beyond the first Internet boom of the 1990s.

Stephenson went on to call for smart government policies when it comes to spectrum allocation, including requiring those who hold spectrum to actually use it, and creating a national model for deploying wireless infrastructure. He also warned readers what will happen if demand for airwaves continues to outpace supply:

Billions of dollars of investment in spectrum deployment will lead to tens of thousands of jobs. It will also multiply the many innovations and high-tech jobs we see today in the development of mobile Internet applications. But when the industry is unable to obtain and deploy spectrum efficiently, we miss the opportunity to create good jobs—and consumers pay the price.

(AT&T is an IIA member.)

Wednesday, May 30

The Big, Big Web

By Brad

Today, Cisco released its latest predictions for what the Internet will be like in 2016. Over at GigaOm, Stacey Higginbotham digs in:

We’re on pace to generate 1.3 zettabytes of data in 2016, about four times more than we create today, according to the latest data out from Cisco. To put that in perspective, Cisco helpfully tells us that’s more than 38 million DVDs streamed in an hour. Or, you can think of it as a 1 followed by 21 zeros.

Cisco also predicts most people will be consuming over 30 GB each month, on average, which is going to require big pipes — or, alarmingly, a lot more spectrum for mobile broadband to keep up. Access to Cisco’s report is available on their website.

Thursday, May 17

Larry Downes on the FCC Spectrum Roadblock

By Brad

In a must-read article for Bloomberg, Larry Downes argues the FCC — despite its good intentions — is getting in the way of freeing much-needed spectrum for wireless:

Speaking the week of May 7 at the annual meeting of the mobile trade group CTIA-The Wireless Association, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski had to acknowledge the sad truth that “the overall amount of spectrum available has not changed, except for steps we’re taking to add new spectrum on the market.”

Those “steps,” however, only promise spectrum sometime in the vague future. For now, the two agencies have put almost no new spectrum into actual use. Instead, the agencies have piled up a depressing list of delays, scandals, and wasted opportunities.

Later in the piece, Downes calls for a major overhaul of how spectrum is managed by the government:

Saving the mobile ecosystem—and making way for the next generation of mobile innovation—demands a bold new strategy. For starters, it is time to stage an intervention for federal agencies hoarding spectrum. Private licensees who no longer need the spectrum they have must be able to sell their rights quickly in a working market and be prodded, when necessary, to do so. Buyers need the freedom to repurpose spectrum to new uses.

Also, we need to increase incentives for network operators to continue investing in better and more efficient infrastructure, not throw cold water on them in the name of a vague and largely undefined public interest. The number of competitors isn’t what matters. It’s the ability of consumers to get what they want at prices that, at least up until now, continue to decline.

Downes’ full article is blunt, alarming, and worth reading.

Tuesday, April 10

The Problem With Slow Movement on Spectrum

By Brad

In a piece for Communications Technology, Walter Piecyk of BTIG Research warns that continued foot-dragging on freeing up more spectrum for wireless is creating negative effects for consumers:

Since the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) blocked the AT&T/T-Mobile merger, wireless data prices have been rising in the form of higher prices and new caps. The reason is simple. Operators are running out of capacity and have little faith that the FCC can source new usable spectrum.

Read the whole thing at Communications Technology.

Friday, March 23

Avoiding Data Gridlock

By Brad

Fierce Wireless’ Sue Marek reports that in a recent appearance at Goldman Sachs TMT Leveraged Finance Conference, Clearwire CFO Hope Cochran announced usage of the mobile broadband provider’s network increase by a staggering 705% from 2010-2011.

That’s translates to a lot of data bombarding the company’s bombarding the company’s network, and it really hammers home just how much more capacity all mobile broadband providers will need to keep up with demand. In fact, Clearwire’s CFO herself believes that without more spectrum, the company’s competitors could hit rough going. As Marek writes:

Cochran then honed in on the fact that Clearwire believes these operators will run out of capacity on their LTE networks very quickly, and will therefore quickly need to off-load their traffic onto Clearwire’s network. When asked by investors how quickly Clearwire thinks the big operators will hit their capacity limits, Cochran said she thinks it will happen very quickly. “We see our own trends and that is the appetite for data is tremendous.”

While the spectrum crunch may turn out to be a benefit for Clearwire, it’s not hard to see the negative impact a lack of available airwaves could have on the wireless industry as a whole if the spectrum crunch is not smartly managed. The FCC needs to act fast to auction off spectrum, for example, so we can begin the process of getting to where spectrum is usable and benefiting consumers.

Friday, February 17

Avoiding the Wireless Traffic Jam

By Jamal Simmons


Anyone whose smart phone has dropped a call has seen evidence that wireless data use is surging in the US, so much that we are rapidly running out of spectrum, the bandwidth necessary to support our mobile needs.

The evidence is everywhere that America’s mobile economy desperately needs an influx of this valuable, limited resource. Start with the new Cisco report, which estimates North American mobile Internet traffic will increase from 119 terabytes/month in 2011 to 493 in 2013 and 1,964 in 2016 (see chart below).

Cisco is hardly alone in documenting our rapid mobile migration. Last July, a global analysis found that mobile networks in North America are filled to 80 percent capacity. 

The same study found that nearly 40 percent of individual mobile base stations already face capacity issues. In laymen’s terms, that’s when your call fails or your smartphone’s Pandora stream suddenly stops because the cell tower’s radio transmitter can’t process all the data from nearby subscribers.

Meanwhile, Americans continue to buy smartphones at an astonishing rate.  We activated about 40 million smartphones in December and ESPN recently claimed that its mobile audience has surpassed 20 million.

Apple’s iPhone business alone is larger than all of Microsoft

Against this flood of evidence about our swelling mobile data demands, spectrum auctions have been mired in legislative procedure. Thankfully, Congress recognized the urgency of the issue and included language in the payroll-tax extension bill that ensured critical spectrum auctions would be conducted in an open process by not allowing the Federal Communications Commission to exclude some wireless providers from participating — perhaps even those who would be willing to pay the most for spectrum.

Almost 20 years ago, the FCC set aside certain spectrum auctions for “designated entities” as part of its 1996 auctions. All other companies were barred.

The result: More than half of the 493 licenses from that auction were later returned to the government for non-payment.

Given that auction proceeds go to the U.S. Treasury (in other words, taxpayers), Congress has delivered a win for consumers. Not to mention economic growth, innovation, and broadband deployment. The legislation means a true level playing field — all auctions open to all qualified companies — and in the end, that’s the best course we can take to keep our wireless economy vibrant and growing. 

Friday, January 13

Congress and Spectrum Auctions

By Brad

In a post on AT&T’s Public Policy Blog, the company’s Senior Executive Vice President of External and Legislative Affairs, Jim Ciconni, argues that Congress and not the FCC should have power over spectrum auctions:

The entire principle behind spectrum auctions is to allow free and competitive markets to work, thus ensuring that valuable spectrum goes to the most economically viable uses. This also provides maximum return to the U.S. Treasury.  For the FCC to assert, in the name of ‘fostering competition’, that it should have final say on which companies can bid on spectrum is for them to engage in picking winners and losers. That is not the job of the FCC. When consumers are able to make decisions in a free and competitive market—and wireless is clearly that—the FCC should not be allowed to impose its own will if it doesn’t like the choices those consumers make
The FCC should be a neutral arbiter, ensuring fairness and impartially enforcing a system of rules and laws. It should not be empowered by Congress to advantage some companies and disadvantage others, or to impose its preferences on a free market. We commend the Congress for advancing spectrum legislation in a way that helps the economy, maximizes revenue for the Treasury, and ensures that consumers—not regulators—decide who wins and loses in the competitive wireless market. It would be a disservice to the Nation if the FCC is so adamant about preserving and enhancing its own power that it would risk killing this crucial legislation.

The need for more spectrum was a major driving force behind AT&T’s proposed merger with T-Mobile.


Wednesday, November 30

Walden on the “JOBS Act”

By Brad

Yesterday, Rep. Greg Walden announced a draft bill aimed at easing America’s looming spectrum crunch. He also took to the pages of The Hill with an op-ed breaking down the benefits of his bill:

The JOBS Act will advance wireless broadband service, spur billions of dollars in private investment, create thousands of jobs, help bring interoperable broadband communications to public safety officials, and reduce the deficit by approximately $15 billion.

The amount of data delivered over wireless networks alone last year was three times higher than the traffic on the entire Internet in 2000. And as American consumers’ demand for wireless Internet grows with the expansion of smartphones and tablets, so does the need for more broadband.

The JOBS Act provides additional broadband spectrum and authorizes the Federal Communications Commission to conduct incentive auctions. Incentive auctions give the FCC the flexibility to promote more efficient use of spectrum by sharing a portion of auction proceeds with current licensees that are willing to return their licenses to the Commission for re-auction.

Rep. Walden’s full op-ed is worth checking out.


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