Friday, August 16
At Light Reading, our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher argues that open spectrum auctions will open the door to growth. Here’s a taste:
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) could hand its equivalent of a winning Powerball ticket to select communications companies in the upcoming spectrum auctions. As the FCC creates rules for the incentive auctions, it has the ability to stack the odds, restricting participation in the auctions by some mobile providers and essentially picking winners and losers among our nation’s carriers.
Today, the wireless industry’s future is in the hands of policy makers. The federal government expects to hold spectrum auctions in 2014 in which air frequencies currently used by broadcast television stations, but well-suited for mobile broadband, will be put up for sale. Much is at stake in the way that the auction is structured and in its ultimate success.
Check out Boucher’s full op-ed over at Light Reading.
Thursday, August 15
Ars Technica’s Jon Brodkin looks at how mobility is changing the way we work:
Forrester Research has been tracking the rise of mobile workers, saying in its 2013 Mobile Workforce Adoption Trends report, “Gone are the days when employees wielded a simple set of tools to get work done. In today’s world of anytime, anywhere work, employees use whatever device is most convenient: desktop at home, laptop at work, tablet in a client meeting, or smartphone everywhere.”
While people can now work pretty much anywhere, they haven’t been able to completely give up more traditional devices. Forrester’s survey of 9,766 information workers in 17 countries found that 84 percent of respondents use a desktop computer for work at least once a week, and 63 percent use a laptop every week. Nearly half, 48 percent, of workers use smartphones for business each week and 21 percent do the same with tablets.
Wednesday, August 14
At Read Write Web, Dan Rowinski declares the “dumb phone” will soon be extinct:
For the first time in the history of cellphones, the smartphone is now more popular globally than the “feature” phone, which many characterize these days as “dumb” phones. According to a report from research firm Gartner, smartphone sales accounted for 51.8% of cellphone sales in the second quarter of 2013.
According to Rowinkski, the main culprit is a flood of relatively cheap smartphones powered by Google’s Android system.
Monday, August 12
Here’s something cool: Via Brian Stelter of the New York Times, NBC is tapping into a new, powerful resource for news gathering:
When a plane crashes or a protest turns violent, television crews speed to the scene. But they typically do not arrive for minutes or even hours, so these days photos and videos by amateurs — what the news industry calls “user-generated content” — fill the void.
Those images, usually found by frantic producers on Twitter and Facebook, represented “the first generation of user-generated content for news,” said Vivian Schiller, the chief digital officer for NBC News. The network is betting that the next generation involves live video, streamed straight to its control rooms in New York from the cellphones of witnesses.
On Monday, NBC News, a unit of Comcast’s NBCUniversal, will announce its acquisition of Stringwire, an early stage Web service that enables just that. Ms. Schiller imagined using Stringwire for coverage of all-consuming protests like those that occurred in Tahrir Square in Cairo.
With a smartphone in our pocket — and the power of mobile broadband — we all have the potential to be journalists.
As the FCC prepares for its spectrum incentive auctions next year, there’s a mind-boggling amount of details to be sorted out. Case in point: The FCC’s TVStudy software, which will gauge areas covered by broadcasters and pinpoint possible areas of interference once spectrum one more spectrum is allocated for wireless. As John Eggerton of Broadcasting & Cable reports, while the proposed software is being criticized by some broadcasters, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai recently took a strong stand in its defense:
Broadcasters have argued the software and data used should be that in existence when the incentive auction law was passed, and that to do otherwise does not square with that law, and in any case is fundamentally flawed.
But in his comments on Friday’s presentation on the status of the incentive auctions, Pai said: ”[B]roadcasters should support updating our software so that it can work on modern computer systems, run more quickly, and perform the type of analysis that will be necessary to support the incentive auction. Likewise, they should be open to including the most recent census data in that software.”
Obviously, this is all very complicated. Which is all the more reason for the FCC to ensure it gets its auction guidelines right.
Monday, August 05
With wireless providers in desperate need of more spectrum, the FCC has been working toward making its incentive auctions happen sometime next year. But as John Eggerton of Broadcasting & Cable reports, Sen. Mark Pryor, chairman of the Senate Communications Subcommittee, believes the Commission may not hit the target:
Asked about the state of the FCC incentive auctions, Pryor said he would be “totally fine” with holding those auctions in 2014, but has heard “rumors” it could slide into 2015 and “guessed” it might just make that slide.
Broadcasters have been arguing that the FCC should not hold itself to 2014, but work on getting the auction “done right rather than right away.” The FCC’s incentive auction point people have suggested it can get it right and meet that 2014 deadline, though that deadline is not set in stone.
Not so fast, the FCC told Eggerton in a follow-up report:
“The Commission’s world-class incentive auction team of economists, auction experts, and engineers is making steady progress towards holding the world’s first incentive auction in 2014; which will free up significant spectrum for mobile broadband use,” said [acting chair Mignon Clyburn’s] spokesman. “The auction is a top institutional priority and we are on track to help deliver faster speeds, greater capacity, and more ubiquitous wireless connectivity to consumers and businesses across the country.”
Tuesday, July 30
Our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher has taken to the digital pages of The Street to argue for smart spectrum policies. Here’s a taste:
Limiting the amount of spectrum these carriers can acquire would potentially rig the auction results, prevent some carriers from getting the spectrum necessary to give customers the service quality they demand, and forestall future wireless innovation. It’s also at odds with Congress’ clear preference for a competitive, level playing field among qualified bidders.
With fewer qualified participants, the auction is less likely to meet Congress’ desire to maximize auction proceeds to fund a planned nationwide public safety broadband network, to compensate broadcasters for the auction of their spectrum and to reduce the federal budget deficit. A recent Georgetown University study contends that severe bidding restrictions could cut revenues by as much as 40%.
Check out Boucher’s full op-ed at The Street.
Thursday, July 25
Via Robin Wilkey at The Huffington Post comes word on a new app that, well…
Launching at the end of August, LeftoverSwap will allow users to upload a photo and description of their pad thai, pizza or pho and connect them with hungry neighbors nearby.
But while the idea may sound a bit crazy, it might actually be contributing to the greater good: LeftoverSwap will start as a donation-only model.
Tuesday, July 23
Earlier today, we held a Twitterview with innovative social company Audingo, which provides a social platform for fans to connect with their favorite personalities by phone, audio text, audio email, and even video. You can check out the condensed version of our interview via our respective Twitter handles (@iiabroadband, @audingo). Here’s the extended interview. — IIA
What type of business is Audingo?
Audingo is a pioneer in the audio-visual social media space. We offer a mobile platform that gives users the opportunity to hear directly from organizations and personalities that they choose via personalized audio and video messages in the form of a call, text or email. It’s a great way for a company or a celebrity to cultivate a loyal fan base with regular outreach to supporters in a one-to-one format. An organization could also use it, for example, to communicate with a vast network of members or employees.
Does your business impact consumers? If so, how?
Both use of social media and online video consumption have skyrocketed. Audingo fuses these trends and delivers messages in a format that consumers are embracing more and more. As reported by Reuters, DreamWorks Animation Chief Jeffrey Katzenberg recently predicted that the future of social media “moves from text-based communication to video and audio-based, making it more intuitive and instinctual.” Audingo is on the leading edge of technology.
How does broadband relate to your business?
Audingo hinges on the availability of broadband, particularly mobile broadband. It’s required for the delivery of Audingo messages and emails to users’ cellphones/smartphones — the data rides over wireless networks.
How has high-speed broadband or wireless broadband helped build, develop, transform or grow your business?
Mobile technology is becoming ever-more embedded in everyday life. The rise of the smartphone has paved a clear path for the development of Audingo, with users’ wireless devices in their pockets at nearly all times. A majority of Americans can now be reached by text, email or a phone call (almost) whenever, wherever. How does broadband come into play? Smartphones were invented when wireless broadband networks were in place to support the technology.
Does your business rely on access to wireless broadband? If so, in what capacity?
Without wireless broadband, Audingo wouldn’t be able to reach subscribers via text message or deliver video messages to their phones via our enterprise level architecture platform. And, obviously, our mobile application that allows organizations and personalities to easily create messages and send to subscribers using their smartphone depends on access to wireless broadband.
Is spectrum, the invisible airwaves that carry voice and data signals to and from electronic devices, critical to the future of your business? If so, how?
Consumers need good reception to make or receive calls on their cellphones and surf the web, check email or use mobile apps on their smartphones. Audingo is committed to efficiently delivering messages from our clients, organizations and public figures. That’s only possible if enough spectrum is available for wireless carriers to reliably support the explosion in mobile.
How would a “spectrum crunch” impact your business?
A spectrum crunch would mean that calls could be dropped in the middle of an audio Audingo message being delivered by phone call – and that would be completely out of our control. It could mean that text and email Audingos are delayed from reaching recipients – maybe even so much that they’re no longer timely. Audingo is very aware of the need for policymakers to take action now to prevent an extreme spectrum crunch from coming to be.
Friday, July 12
Last Wednesday, just before Americans fired up barbecues and fireworks, the FCC approved the sale of Sprint to SoftBank. The deal is worth a reported $21 billion, with SoftBank now owning 78% of America’s third largest wireless company.
Acquiring Sprint gives SoftBank more than a foothold in the highly competitive U.S. wireless market. Thanks to Sprint’s long-standing deal with wireless broadband provider Clearwire — a deal fully consummated when Sprint recently purchased 100% of the company — the Japanese firm is also taking control of a company with a clear lead when it comes to all-important spectrum holdings. In fact Sprint now owns more spectrum than any other wireless carrier.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with that. Due to the explosive growth of mobile broadband, providers are constantly on the hunt for more airwaves. But there is an issue in how Sprint positions its vast spectrum holdings with the FCC.
The last time the FCC updated its spectrum screen — its guide for keeping the wireless market competitive, among other things — was in 2008. In that update, the Commission decided to leave out the majority of Clearwire’s 2.5 GHz spectrum — airwaves that were then, and continue to be, used for mobile broadband.
That’s a sizable chunk of airwaves left out of the FCC’s screen, and as the Commission continues to crafts its upcoming spectrum auctions, it should definitely reconsider its previous decision to exclude it.
That is precisely the opposite of what Sprint wants to happen. The company, despite now being the clear spectrum winner in the U.S. wireless market, continues to argue that two-thirds of Clearwire’s 2.5 GHz spectrum — which was a driver of Sprint’s decision to buy all of Clearwire in order to better position itself for SoftBank’s interest — should still be excluded. They argue, even though they employ these airwaves for mobile broadband, that it’s essentially unsuitable for mobile broadband.
If that argument seems confusing and confoundingly at odds with reality, that’s because it is.
Sprint’s endgame is not confusing, however, as they’re clearly trying to position themselves as a weaker player when it comes to spectrum holdings. It’s a savvy business move, but given how important mobile broadband is becoming to the American economy, it’s also an unfortunate one.
Every provider is in need of more spectrum. They need it to keep up with the demands of their customers, and they need it to keep up with the speed of innovation. The FCC’s spectrum screen is an important tool in the Commission’s toolbox. But it needs to encompass all holdings in order to be effective.
Thursday, July 11
Yesterday marked the fifth anniversary of Apple’s App Store. At Read Write Web, Dan Rowinski looks at the effect mobile apps have had on, well, everything:
On July 10, 2008, Apple released the App Store for iPhone. As with many things Apple, the concept was not new: the software world had been moving to digital downloads for a while, and Palm’s PDAs showed that mobile-device users wanted apps. It was the execution, scale and scope of Apple’s new App Store that would forever change the software industry.
“Apple’s App Store fundamentally restructured the apps ecosystem, the process of developing and launching apps, and how consumers consumed content and services. It also changed computing forever,” said mobile analyst and consultant Chetan Sharma.
No single industry sector has been spared the changes that the spread of the App Store has brought about. Programmers and designers, enterprises and small businesses, media and advertising, government—name an industry and it has felt the effects of the App Store.
There are now over 900,000 apps in the App Store. Not bad for something still in the toddler stage.
Monday, July 08
In an op-ed for The Hill, our own Jamal Simmons argues that banning some bidders from the FCC’s upcoming spectrum auctions just doesn’t make sense. Here’s a taste:
An independent study by Georgetown University’s Center for Business and Public Policy analyzed the economic impact of restricting participation in the upcoming auctions. The study finds that completely barring Verizon and AT&T from participating in the bidding would reduce auction revenues by about 40 percent, lowering federal auction proceeds as much as $12 billion. Rules that deprive the largest carriers of having a shot at buying more spectrum would also slow down the nationwide transition to faster 4G, fourth generation wireless broadband, and would result in estimated, cumulative losses of 118,400 jobs by 2017. Overreaching restrictions that have the effect of reducing auction proceeds would mean that less spectrum is available for mobile broadband use – a double-whammy that would hurt the American consumer and taxpayer.
Favoring certain bidders in the past, without enough concern for effectiveness, negatively impacted auction proceeds, left major blocks of spectrum unused, and led to what former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski identified as “America’s looming spectrum crisis.” Going forward, the FCC should instead focus on setting up a fair process that gives all qualified bidders an opportunity to compete in the wireless market.
Check out the full op-ed over at The Hill.
Monday, July 01
Last month, President Obama put forward a bold initiative to connect 99% of American schools with high-speed Internet within the next five years. On Friday, Brendan Sasso of The Hill reports, acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn did her part to kickstart the initiative:
In a statement on Friday, Clyburn said the agency’s proposal answers the president’s call “to close our education system’s bandwidth gap by modernizing the E-Rate program and providing our schools and libraries with a path towards affordable access to high-speed broadband.”
“Since its inception, the E-Rate program has succeeded in connecting nearly all U.S. classrooms to the Internet, and in 2010 we took a number of initial steps to cut red tape and help schools get faster speeds for less money. But now, to ensure a robust future for our children, we must equip them with the necessary tools to compete and flourish in an increasingly global and high tech economy,” she said.
For a look at the benefits broadband has on education, check out our “Not Just Generation Text” infographic.
After months of speculation, Apple has finally made a move that signals it may be jumping into the world of wearable computing. As Nack Fujimura and Takashi Amano of Bloomberg report:
Apple Inc, the world’s most valuable technology company, is seeking a trademark for “iWatch” in Japan as rival Samsung Electronics Co. readies its own wearable computing device.
The iPhone maker is seeking protection for the name, which is listed in a category for products such as a handheld computer or watch, according to a June 3 filing with the Japan Patent Office that was made public last week. Takashi Takebayashi, a Tokyo-based spokesman for Apple, didn’t respond to a request for comment.
From the Internet on your phone to the Internet in your glasses to the Internet on your wrist. Thanks to mobile broadband, we truly live in amazing times.
Thursday, June 27
Yesterday, IIA partnered with the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and the Digital Policy Institute to host “X-Factors of Tech Policy Today: Keeping Pace in the Broadband Race.”
Participating in the discussion were:
• Ralph B. Everett, Esq. – President and CEO, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies
• Robert Yadon, Ph.D. – Director, Digital Policy Institute
• Barry Umansky, J.D. – Senior Fellow, Digital Policy Institute
• Rick Boucher – Former Congressman; Honorary Chairman, Internet Innovation Alliance
• Maurita Coley, Esq. – Vice President and COO, Minority Media and Telecommunications Council
• John Horrigan Ph.D. – Vice President and Director, Media and Technology Institute, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies
• Louis Peraertz, Esq. – Legal Advisor, Wireless, International and Public Safety, Office of Acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon C. Clyburn
After Ralph Everett welcomed the crowd and made introductions, Robert Yadon kicked things off by highlighting struggles in the state of Illinois to fully take advantage of technology as a driver of economic recovery. By increasing STEM graduate rates and creating a climate of entrepreneurship, Yadon argued, Illinois could greatly benefit. “States with a solid fiscal policy, light regulatory touch, and educated workforce are most attractive for business and investment,” Yadon said. “The same is true at the national level.”
During the panel discussion, moderator Barry Umansky went right at the issue of spectrum:
One key element of the IP transition is global wireless, which depends upon spectrum. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Justice suggested that in the upcoming incentive auctions, limits be imposed on the ability of the larger wireless carriers to participate. Why is or isn’t this a good idea?
Tackling the question, our own Rick Boucher highlighted the fact that mobile data services are growing at five times the rate of the national economy. “This is a consumer issue,” Boucher said. “Consumers have the right to assume that carriers will be able to meet increasing demand.”
Boucher also warned that limiting participation from some carriers would negatively impact more than consumers, stating:
Government needs revenue from the incentive auctions in order to build out the first responder network. Broadcasters have also been promised revenue from putting forward spectrum for auction. The more bidders included in the process, the more revenue will be generated, and the more broadcasters will be willing to provide spectrum.”
All the panelists agreed that freeing up more spectrum for wireless as especially critical for minority and economically disadvantaged communities, which are embracing mobile broadband are a rapid rate. As Minority Media and Telecommunications Council Vice President and COO Maurita Coley put it:
Policies should encourage moving forward with auctions and bringing spectrum to market, and ensure that minority entrepreneurs have the opportunity to participate in auctions. The FCC has the ability to ensure that minority and underserved consumers are not left behind.
The other hot topic during the discussion was the coming transition to all-IP networks. As Umansky asked the panelists:
The FCC Technical Advisory Committee, formerly headed by Chairman Nominee Tom Wheeler, has recommended that the FCC take the steps necessary to sunset the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) by 2016. What are the policy implications of a near-term sunset for broadband deployment and consumers?
In response, Rick Boucher pointed out that current regulations are getting in the way of progress:
While only 25% of customers remain on [the PSTN] network, carriers are forced by law to maintain 100% of the old networks, and the cost of carriers maintaining older networks is the opportunity cost of investment in the new ones.
Boucher also encouraged the Commission to help speed up the transition to all-IP networks. “Consumer interest must be regarded as an informed priority,” he said. “A faster sunset will mean a faster delivery to consumers of services over modern networks.”
Back to the topic of competition, a member of the audience asked what the FCC’s ideal number of players was for a competitive marketplace. In response, Peraertz said:
For [Acting FCC Chairwoman] Mignon Clyburn, there is no set number of players. We look for ways to take a more detailed look at wireless market structure and promoting access for low income and underserved communities.
These were just some of the many highlights from what turned out to be a lively and highly informative discussion. If you’d like to watch the entire event, archived video is available here.
Wednesday, June 26
If you missed our “X-Factors of Tech Policy Today” discussion this morning, here’s video of the event. Our thanks to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, the Digital Policy Institute, and all the speakers for a lively and important discussion.
Video streaming by Ustream
Monday, June 24
This week, the Washington Post hosted a live panel discussion titled “Spectrum Supply and Demand.” Debate was lively; however, there was no disagreement on the need for additional spectrum for the nation’s wireless and digital economy. When leaders of industry, competing companies, and government can agree on anything, it is worth taking notice.
Spirited discussion on the panel regarding wireless policy shared a common premise: The urgent need for more spectrum, a valuable resource that has transformed industries and lives. Additionally, most panelists argued that government action can help by reallocating spectrum for commercial wireless use. Debate arose, however, on the specifics and details of where and how to get more spectrum.
Wireless carriers can acquire more spectrum in three ways: by auction, through government reallocation of spectrum and transfers of spectrum between private entities. The FCC will conduct an incentive auction within the next year or two that will provide broadcasters the opportunity to sell some of their spectrum to mobile carriers. Secondary market transactions allow wireless providers to sell spectrum to other companies who are equipped to use that resource to serve consumers quickly. Both options present a number of challenges not the least because they both rely on government management. Government is the largest holder of spectrum and has the power to bring that to market for consumer use.
On-going inaction by government quickly emerged as a shared frustration, prompting an energetic discussion about the government’s role in reallocating spectrum for consumer use. Initiatives to reallocate government spectrum for consumer use and the need for speed, according to many on the Washington Post panel, are long overdue.
President Obama recently released a Memorandum calling for a federal spectrum inventory to identify possible opportunities for allocation of federal spectrum for consumers. This new initiative could present potential solutions, yet panelists were not hopeful that it would provide a quick fix to the existing spectrum crisis. At bottom, the inventory would help in providing an authoritative account of how much spectrum exists and who holds it within the federal government. Hopefully this will result in meaningful action by government not only to complete an inventory of spectrum but take steps to reallocate spectrum for consumer high-speed broadband use to help stave off the imminent spectrum crunch poised to impact America’s cities, including Washington DC, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco as soon as the next year.
The FCC’s upcoming incentive auction presents a faster solution to the spectrum problem but with no less controversy. Auction design provoked spirited reactions from the panelists. Congress previously mandated that qualified bidders could not be prohibited from participating in the auction and that a portion of the auction proceeds would fund FirstNet, a nationwide public safety broadband network for America’s first responders. As FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai emphasized during the panel, the auction rules must be designed so that the auction is successful for buyers, sellers, public safety and the U.S. Treasury. A complex endeavor.
With this in mind, many believe auction rules should be structured to maximize both participation and proceeds. Establishing fair rules that allow all carriers to participate without restriction will capitalize on the hypercompetitive state of the wireless market. If certain bidders are limited by rules that prevent them from buying needed spectrum (counter to Congressional intent), then auction proceeds would be reduced, jeopardizing revenues, broadcaster participation, and FirstNet’s funding.
By contrast, some panelists favor restrictions on bidding. However, that would lead to reduced proceeds and likely not guarantee greater competition. The companies that would most benefit from bidding restrictions, T-Mobile and Sprint, are both well equipped with spectrum and well-funded by their parent companies. For instance, T-Mobile is owned by Deutsche Telekom, a partly state-owned German company, and by the time the auction takes place, Sprint could have a well-capitalized foreign owner under Japan-based SoftBank. Both companies can reasonably be expected to bid competitively for valuable spectrum without U.S. government intervention to favor their spectrum acquisition goals.
The mobile revolution has transformed modern life and the American economy, and it will inevitably dynamically shape the future, too. But without additional spectrum to meet consumer demand, this could all be at risk. Leaders from a variety of companies, organizations, and government entities agree with that fundamental premise. Yet the mobile revolution can’t change an underlying fact: Ensuring both highly competitive bidding and fair, open rules of the auction will increase the benefits to our country’s broadband infrastructure, and ultimately, to U.S. consumers.
Friday, June 21
In an op-ed for The New York Times, Verizon chairman and chief executive Lowell C. McAdam argues that a light regulatory touch has kept America’s wireless industry booming, and that if we’re going to continue leading the world in mobile broadband, that light regulatory touch needs to continue:
Fifty-six percent of American adults have smartphones that give them access to mobile broadband data and video. Our country is the center of a booming mobile ecosystem in which new devices and applications are being used to do everything from personal health monitoring and e-commerce to tracking deliveries and saving energy.
Contrast this with the European Union, where innovation and investment in advanced networks have stagnated under an onerous regulatory regime that limits investment and innovation, and where today only about 2 percent of households have access to broadband networks with 100-megabit-plus speeds. “Once, Europe led the world in wireless communication: now we have fallen behind,” Neelie Kroes, the European Union official responsible for broadband policy, said in a speech in January. “Europe needs to regain that lead.”
Via John Eggerton of Broadcasting & Cable, the House Communications Subcommittee has penciled in June 27 for a hearing on wireless spectrum:
The Subcommittee hearing is titled “Equipping Carriers and Agencies in the Wireless Era,” and will include witnesses from the government and private sectors talking about the needs of wireless companies and government agencies “in a time of limited spectrum and financial resources.”
Things could be looking up for congested wireless networks, with President Obama newly focused on America’s spectrum crunch. Hopefully, the FCC’s incentive auctions will stay on track for next year, as suggested by Commissioner Rosenworcel.
Friday, June 14
As my colleague Rick Boucher has already stated, the spectrum-related initiatives President Obama announced this morning are a “great step” toward getting mobile broadband providers the airwaves they need in order to meet the demands of their customers. That’s the first nugget of good news.
The second nugget of good news, which was also included in this morning’s announcement, is the White House’s report on the state of broadband, which highlights just how far our country has come in providing high-speed Internet access to citizens. Some bullet points from the report:
• In the year 2000, 4.4% of American households had a home connection to broadband; by 2010 that number had jumped to 68%.
• Broadband networks at a baseline speed of >10 megabits per second now reach more than 94% of U.S. homes.
• Overall, average delivered broadband speeds have doubled since 2009. In 2012, North America’s average mobile data connection speed was 2.6 Mbps, the fastest in the world, nearly twice that available in Western Europe, and over five times the global average.
• Annual investment in U.S. wireless networks grew more than 40% between 2009 and 2012, from $21 billion to $30 billion, and exceeds investment by the major oil and gas or auto companies; investment in European wireless networks remained flat during this time period, while wireless investment in Asia (including China) rose only 4%.
• There are over 500 million Internet-connect devices now in American homes and businesses.
Those are some impressive numbers, especially on the investment front, and they underscore just how vibrant and competitive the U.S. wireless market really is.
The numbers also tell us that in order to keep the party lights on, the Federal Communications Commission must pursue policies that encourage investment and innovation. Currently the FCC has two issues burning up its docket. The first is the upcoming spectrum incentive auctions, which need to be transparent and open in order to get the most out of those airwaves. Competition is important – which is already occurring in the telecom market – and so is raising as much money as possible for the U.S. Treasury. Also, we need to ensure companies that can quickly put new spectrum to work powering mobile broadband are in the mix.
The other issue facing the FCC is the upgrade of America’s wired networks so they are better suited for the Internet age. While the baseline speed of >10 megabits per second cited in the White House’s report is good, we can do better. The upgrade to all-Internet based networks will mean substantially faster broadband in more places, but getting there will require substantial investment. It will also mean a close examination — and potential overhaul — of regulations currently governing our nation’s networks.
Neither of these issues is insurmountable, but it will take continued partnership between the government and private industry to keep America at the forefront of both wired and mobile broadband. The numbers in the White House report are encouraging. The President’s push to free up more government spectrum is inspiring. Smart policies when it comes to spectrum auctions and network upgrades will help us hit the trifecta.