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 'Mobile Broadband'

Monday, July 23

A Faster FCC

By Jamal Simmons

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A lot can change in five years.

Case in point: the telecommunications industry, which just half a decade ago was mainly focused on providing customers with voice calls and texting capabilities. Then Steve Jobs took the stage one afternoon and held up a product he called the iPhone, and since that day the telecom industry — and the computer industry as a whole, really — has been witness to disruption after disruption. Voice minutes are being replaced by data plans. Texting is receiving major competition from Twitter.

While the past five years have been amazing to watch, they’ve also created challenges. And right now, there’s perhaps no bigger challenge — no bigger threat to the continued health and success of the mobile broadband revolution — than a lack of spectrum.

If you’ve followed mobile technology at all over the past year or so, chances are you’ve heard of America’s looming “spectrum crunch.” The very real problem of a shortage of airwaves for the wireless industry — a shortage that will make it extremely difficult, if not outright impossible, for wireless providers to keep up with demand. Congress and the FCC have been working to address this shortage via so-called “incentive auctions,” a process where spectrum holders such as broadcasters are encouraged — and well-compensated — for giving up some of their spectrum holdings for wireless use.

While it’s doubtful the spectrum obtained through these auctions alone will be enough for wireless providers to keep up with skyrocketing demand, they’re still vital for the health of the industry and our economy as a whole. But as with most things in government, the process has been painfully slow, which is why two statements from recently appointed FCC Commissioners this week have been encouraging.

The first came from Commissioner Ajit Pai while he was delivering a speech at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. While laying out his vision for the FCC going forward,Pai said:

[T]he FCC must act with the same alacrity as the industry we oversee. That’s not to say we should rush to regulate, but delays at the Commission have substantial real-world consequences: new technologies remain on the shelves; capital lies fallow; and entrepreneurs stop hiring or, even worse, reduce their workforce as they wait for regulatory uncertainty to work itself out.

Pai then went on to talk about the incentive auctions, stating:

[T]he Commission should kick-off the rule-making process for implementing incentive auctions this fall and set a deadline to conduct those auctions no later than June 30, 2014.

Whether such a deadline for auctions is feasible remains to be seen, but it’s a positive sign that a Commissioner of the FCC — a government body even Pai admits has “long had a reputation in Washington as an agency that moves too slowly” — is speaking so strongly about speeding up the process.

Also encouraging were statements from Pai’s fellow recent appointee to the Commission, Jessica Rosenworcel, who just a few days later hit on the need to speed things up — especially for freeing up more spectrum — in a statement of her own. As she said during a FCC meeting yesterday:

We all know that the President has called for 500 megahertz of spectrum to be cleared for commercial use within ten years. We are making progress at the Commission, including in our review of how to provide for more flexible use of the 2 GHz band currently assigned to Mobile Satellite Service. Plus, we have a series of auctions, including incentive auctions, on the near-term horizon. To bring certainty to the marketplace, I believe we should put these auctions on a clear timeline.

So there you have it. Two FCC Commissioners, one a Republican and one a Democrat, agreeing that in order to address America’s spectrum needs the Commission start turning words intoaction. It’s another positive example of the Commission under Chairman Julius Genachowski working to keep pace with the speed of technology, and while the FCC may not be there yet, here’s hoping it happens soon.

Because who knows what things will be like five years from now?

Increasingly Mobile

By Brad

New numbers from Nielsen show how mobile broadband is increasingly playing a role in our lives. Via Phil Goldstein of FierceWireless:

In the first quarter of 2012 the average U.S. mobile subscriber used 450 MB of data per month, according to research firm Nielsen. That figure is more than double the average of 208 MB per month for all U.S. mobile subscribers in the first quarter of 2011.

While this is definitely good news — mobile broadband is a driving force in closing the digital divide — it also highlights the critical importance of freeing up more airwaves for wireless use.

Tuesday, July 17

Big Jump for Mobile Broadband

By Brad

Tammy Parker of Fierce Broadband Wireless highlights a new report from Infonetics Research that predicts big things for mobile broadband:

Mobile broadband represents the fastest-growing revenue stream for mobile operators. Globally, the value of the mobile services market is forecast to expand to $976 billion by 2016, with the majority of growth stemming from mobile broadband services, according to Infonetics, which also forecasts mobile broadband subscribers will grow from 15 percent of the total mobile subscriber base in 2011 to nearly 40 percent in 2016.

Monday, July 16

Taking Facebook Mobile

By Brad

What’s Facebook’s biggest challenge nowadays? According to its Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg, it’s updating the social networking service for our increasingly mobile world, as Jon Erlichman and Christopher Palmeri of Bloomberg report:

Bringing Facebook’s features to handheld gadgets is difficult because the user experience is so different than on desktop computers, he said in an interview from the Allen & Co. media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho. Zuckerberg, meanwhile, played down the tribulations of running a newly public company.

Keep in mind Apple’s iPhone was released just five years ago. Now even innovative services like Facebook are struggling to keep up with the explosion in mobile broadband.

Friday, July 13

Pressuring the Government for Spectrum

By Brad

Eliza Krigman of Politico reports that lawmakers in the House are increasingly applying pressure on the federal government to make more spectrum available for wireless use:

The Federal Spectrum Working Group, co-chaired by Reps. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.), sent a letter to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration on Tuesday asking for detailed information about the activities of government spectrum users. And lawmakers focused on the issue at a Federal Communications Commission oversight hearing earlier Tuesday.

“Federal spectrum can help alleviate the spectrum crunch,” Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) said. “We should conduct a spectrum inventory of the military and elsewhere to see how much they have to see what’s available that could help the private sector.

Monday, July 09

The Coming LTE Explosion

By Brad

Ultra-fast mobile broadband, also known as LTE, is slowly gaining traction here in America, according to Brad Reed of Boy Genius Reports, things are about to speed up:

Per Digitimes, the Taiwanese Market Intelligence & Consulting Institute research firm is projecting that LTE smartphones will total 586 million in 2016, more than nine times the 64 million smartphones projected to ship in 2012.

The question remains: Will wireless carriers have the spectrum they need to keep up with this latest mobile revolution?

Friday, July 06

Number of the Day

By Brad

$7 billion. That’s how much mobile, in-app advertising is expected to generate yearly in the U.S. alone by 2015, according to a new projection from Juniper Research. That’s compared to just over $2 billion this year. (Via Boy Genius Report.)

When a Phone May No Longer Be a Phone

By Brad

Over at GigaOm, Om Malik poses an interesting question: Given the power of today’s smartphones — fueled by innovative tech and the power of mobile broadband — is it time to stop calling them phones all together? As Malik writes:

We spend about 11 minutes a day on email, 10.2 minutes on text messaging and when you total it all up, we stare at our smartphones for a whopping 128 minutes.

That’s a whole lot of a staring at a device we used to mainly use for talking.

 

Thursday, July 05

A Look at Spectrum Sharing

By Brad

Paul Barbagallo of Bloomberg BNA examines the promise — and challenges — of the government sharing spectrum with wireless providers:

So far, neither the FCC nor the NTIA have begun to address the many questions that are now beginning to emerge: Who will share with whom? If wireless carriers must share spectrum that is licensed to federal government agencies, who retains priority access? What are the rules for the wireless carriers when they are using spectrum licensed to the federal government? And, perhaps most critically, what “type” of sharing ultimately will be promoted?

Currently, there are three sharing models under consideration: Geographic-based sharing, in which a wireless carrier may use a federal agency’s frequencies only in certain geographic areas; “temporal”-based sharing, in which a wireless carrier may use a federal agency’s frequencies only during certain times of the day or year; and technology-based sharing, in which wireless carriers and a federal agency would each use a cognitive, or “smart,” radio device that can search wide swaths of a spectrum band for “quiet,” or unused, frequencies over which to transmit and receive data. As for the latter, another important question looms: What will the new software required for each mobile device mean for the size, weight, battery life, and, ultimately, the cost of the handset?

Barbagallo’s full story is definitely worth checking out.

 

The Tablet Game

By Brad

Last week, Google announced a new 7-inch tablet called the Nexus 7. Now rumors are flying that Apple, which has so far dominated the growing tablet market — which, arguably, is the future of computing — is set to fire back with a smaller tablet of its own. As Peter Burrows and Adam Satariano of Bloomberg report:

A smaller, less expensive iPad could undercut the ambitions of Google, Microsoft and Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) to gain traction in the advancing tablet market, said Shaw Wu, an analyst at Sterne Agee & Leach Inc. The new device will probably have a price closer to Google’s Nexus 7 tablet and Amazon’s Kindle Fire, both of which have 7-inch screens and cost $199.

“It would be the competitors’ worst nightmare,” Wu said in an interview. “The ball is in Apple’s court.”

Tuesday, July 03

The Spectrum Process

By Brad

“Mobile Network Design and Deployment: How Incumbent Operators Plan for Technology Upgrades and Related Spectrum Needs” is a paper released last week by engineer Peter Rysavy. In it, he examines the lengthy process wireless providers go through to locate new spectrum and put it to use:

Managing wireless networks is a complex process that must balance infrastructure investment with service revenues, capacity with demand, and that must optimally time the deployment of new technologies. Part of this balancing act is acquiring and deploying radio spectrum. Spectrum can neither be immediately acquired, nor can it be immediately deployed. Instead, operators have to phase it into their networks in conjunction with the right technology at the right time over periods that span many years. The fact that operators may have idle spectrum at specific points in time does not mean that they don’t need it, and it does not mean that they don’t intend to use it.

If you’re looking for a smart — and consumable — breakdown of the importance of spectrum, Rysav’s paper is worth digging in to.

Friday, June 29

An Amazing Five Years

By Brad

Five years ago today, a little device was released that completely revolutionized not just the mobile industry, but the broadband industry as well. Via Zach Epstein of Boy Genius Reports:

The advent of the iPhone era has forced changes in a stagnant smartphone industry that would never have gotten to this point without a serious push. Smartphones are now slim and sleek instead of huge and bulky. Touchscreens are now commonplace, drastically improving the overall user experience across all mobile platforms. Apps are now a booming economy, and are neatly organized in on-device portals instead of being available mainly through poorly-managed websites that made finding the software one needs a daunting task.

Epstein goes on to note that at the time the iPhone was announced, RIM — makers of the Blackberry, then the top dog in the smartphone market — scoffed at the device. Unfortunately for RIM, just yesterday the company announced its first net quarterly loss in eight years. Pretty amazing how fast fortunes change in the technology world.

Monday, June 25

The Tablet Game

By Brad

Last week, Microsoft announced Surface, its tablet competitor to Apple’s dominant iPad. This week, another tech giant is looking to make a splash with a device of its own. Via Luke Hopewell of Gizmodo:

As rumoured, Google’s going to announce a 7-inch, Nexus-branded tablet called the Nexus 7. According to the leak, it’s built by Asus, with a 1.3Ghz quad-core Tegra 3 processor, GeForce 12-core GPU and 1GB of RAM with two different storage variants: 8GB and 16GB.

The Nexus tablet will also feature NFC and run Google Wallet (probably only in the US) and Android Beam.

According to Gizmodo, the device will start at just $199.

Thursday, June 14

A Reminder About Spectrum

By Brad

President Obama’s broadband deployment Executive Order (see below), received praise from CTIA, the nation’s largest wireless industry group, but as John Eggerton of Multichannel News reports, that praise came with a specific message:

“CTIA and the wireless industry are pleased to see the president recognizes that more Americans continue to rely on their mobile devices for anytime and anywhere access, including the Internet,” said CTIA president Steve Largent in a statement. “At the same time, we hope the president and his administration remain focused on getting more spectrum for the U.S. wireless industry so our members may handle the significant data usage of Americans now and in the future.”

With mobile broadband being rapidly adopted by America’s underserved communities, CTIA is right to point out that efforts to close the digital divide should focus both on wired networks and providing the airwaves mobile broadband needs to operate and grow.

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.)

Friday, June 08

A Slow Process

By Brad

Yesterday, Verizon CTO Tony Melone criticized the FCC’s pace when it comes to freeing up much-needed spectrum for wireless. As CNet’s Marquerite Reardon reports:

Melone said the FCC needs to speed up the process for approving spectrum sales and license transfers in the secondary market. He used his company’s own bid to buy wireless spectrum from a consortium of cable companies—collectively known as SpectrumCo—as an example. In December, Verizon promised to pay $3.6 billion for nearly 20 MHz of wireless spectrum in the AWS band.

The FCC and Department of Justice are reviewing the transaction, which also includes a co-marketing deal, which some critics say is anti-competitive. The agencies have been reviewing the deal since December when it was announced and are expected to finish up their inquiry by the end of July.

Melone said that he thinks the process, which is expected to take a little over six months, is too long. And he said it’s a barrier to getting unused wireless spectrum into companies that can put it into use. And he criticized the agency for taking too long to evaluate the transaction.

Given the increasing demand for mobile broadband — and the FCC’s own warnings that we will soon be hitting a “spectrum crunch” — it’s easy to see why Melone and other wireless providers are frustrated with the slow pace of the Commission’s process.

Wednesday, June 06

Connected Tweens

By Brad

Over at Broadcasting & Cable, John Eggerton examines a new survey from Cox and the National Center for Mission and Exploited Children on smartphones and kids:

The Tween Internet Safety Survey study… found that 95% of kids use their phones and game consoles to surf the Web. While 68% of parents said they monitored their kid’s Internet behavior on mobile devices, only 17% said they used parental control features on smartphones.

The full survey results are available on Cox’s website (PDF).

Spectrum and Accessibility

By Brad

In an important post for The Hill‘s Congress Blog, Axel Leblois, Executive Director of the Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs (G3ict), highlights how critical wireless devices like smartphones and tablets are for people with disabilities — and how it’s just as critical that more spectrum to be made available:

If we want to see further advancements in mobile accessibility technologies, we must continue to promote the development of a healthy mobile ecosystem. Encouraging continued private sector investment in wireless network infrastructure is vital and will require swift and decisive government action. Our government, which allocates the airwaves, must find more for commercial use. Such a move will allow wireless carriers to continue expanding and enhancing our wireless networks, ensuring a wireless infrastructure that will enable accessibility innovation to continue to aid Americans with disabilities. And by acting quickly to remove this barrier to growth, our government can enable faster development of these and other technological innovations.

Leblois’ full post is a must-read.

Tuesday, June 05

Wireless World

By Brad

Via Kevin Fitchard of GigaOm, a new report from Ericsson predicts a big leap when it comes to mobile broadband access worldwide:

It took 12 years for 3G technologies to touch half of the world’s population, but getting to 85 percent coverage will only take another five, according to wireless infrastructure vendor Ericsson. New HSPA+ and LTE network deployments will lead to a near blanketing of the world’s populated areas with mobile broadband by 2017.

Ericsson’s report is available on their website.

Sharing Isn’t Always Easy

By Brad

Speaking of spectrum, over at Fierce Wireless Philip Goldstein is encouraged by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s suggestion of sharing some of the government’s airwaves with wireless providers, but cautions it won’t be an easy move:

As with many things that get talked about in Washington though, spectrum sharing—specifically between government entities and commercial carriers—is more conjecture at this point than anything else. It will take years to make such sharing a reality, and the biggest hurdles will not be technical but more basic elements like how much spectrum government agencies—especially the Department of Defense—will be willing to give up. In order to get both sides on the same page to make spectrum sharing a reality, there is going to have to be significant and consistent socialization of both government spectrum administrators and the wireless industry.

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