Guest Blog by Allison Remsen, Executive Director of Mobile Future
I recently had the chance to spend some time at the Consumer Electronics Show and I have to say – this is an amazing time to work in the wireless sector.
From mobile heart and glucose monitors to connected cars to networked refrigerators that can update your shopping list when someone finishes the milk – we’re seeing huge growth in the area of connected devices. Not only are the devices talking to us, they are increasingly talking to each other and helping streamline our everyday lives.
Mobile Future took a closer look back at the wireless growth and opportunities in our 2011 Mobile Year in Review. This animated video includes some amazing statistics and shows how quickly the mobile space is evolving.
It’s also a great reminder that the U.S. mobile sector is leading the wireless revolution both in technology and competition.
The U.S. significantly leads the world in 4G subscribers, which is great news for consumers, the mobile innovation community and the nation’s economy. The American wireless market is also highly competitive with two-thirds of us able to choose from among five or more wireless providers and a broad array of service choices.
Last week, Rob Shapiro and Kevin Hassett released a paper with NDN looking at the employment growth in the transition from 2G to 3G networks and conservatively found that since 2007, in the face of extremely difficult economic times, the wireless sector added 1.5 million jobs and they project similar growth with the transition to 4G.
Much of this is being fueled by the next-generation of devices and what we can do with them. But this increased usage and growth lead to some significant policy and engineering questions.
Spectrum is the ‘invisible infrastructure’ that makes all wireless connectivity possible, but we’re running out of it fast, especially as we see an explosion in 4G devices and the benefits of high-speed services that come with them.
Here are some staggering statistics:
• U.S. mobile networks are already running at 80% capacity compared to the world average of 65%.
• According to the FCC, by next year, we will exceed existing capacity on U.S. wireless networks.
• In 2015, tablets will generate as much traffic as the entire global mobile network of 2010.
• The iPhone 4S consumes twice as much data as the 4G version and on average three times as much data as the iPhone 3G due to data-hungry features such as the voice-based assistant software Siri.
So where do we go from here and what does it mean for consumers?
A spectrum crunch will mean more than longer downloads and more dropped calls. It will mean missed opportunities, and slower innovation, and slower job growth.
There’s broad agreement that we’re facing a serious problem and legislation before Congress would establish voluntary spectrum auctions to repurpose broadcast spectrum for mobile. That’s one part of the solution. Freeing up unused government spectrum is another.
We are hopeful that Congress will pass spectrum legislation soon, but in a sector that’s moving significantly faster than policymakers, the clock is ticking very loudly.
More information on spectrum and what it means for wireless is available in Mobile Future’s Spectrum Resource Center.