I had the opportunity to attend an interesting panel discussion at the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioner’s Conference (NARUC) in Portland, Oregon last week. The topic addressed the question, what’s the vision of telecommunications in 2020?
One message that was loud and clear from panelist Joel Lubin of AT&T: we are moving to an all-broadband world for our telecommunications, and as a result, more spectrum is needed. Other panelists also had spectrum front and center on their minds. Google’s policy counsel Patrick Ryan said that wireless spectrum reform will dominate in the next several years.
Lubin doesn’t want regulation to impede innovation — an important point– and stressed that it’s important to keep it all simple. Massachusetts State Commissioner Why defended basic consumer protections, including services such as E911. It was an interesting discussion on some important issues that I’m sure we will continue to hear about as we look forward to the future of telecommunications services.
One general session that I found most interesting brought two industries together — electricity and wireless — to discuss how they work together to operate the smart grid. The panel reviewed some of the similarities and differences in the two industries, and then how they work together to bring the benefits of smart grid technology to consumers: energy efficiencies, reliability, customer home energy management, etc.
And wouldn’t you know it? Even in this session, concerns about the looming spectrum crunch were raised. With wireless technologies an important element of the smart grid, it is important that there be adequate spectrum for utility use. While we know that the increasing growth in mobile data usage and demand by consumers is leading to the need for more spectrum, it was interesting to think of yet another need for more spectrum: to power-up the smart grid.
A newly released study by comScore reveals that smartphone adoption continues to grow rapidly in the U.S. Nearly half — 47.5% — of the phone subscribers who purchased a device in April 2012 bought a smartphone. According to the study, as of April 2012, 110 million Americans own smartphones; up 44% from the previous year. The comScore study found that 61.5% of subscribers purchased an Android device, 25.2 an Apple device, 7.1 a device operating on a Microsoft platform, and 4.8 a RIM device.
The rapidly growing number of smartphone owners are also using and demanding more data from their mobile devices. While all this user demand is great, it also has led to a need for more spectrum. It’s important for government to continue the effort to find quick solutions to meet the need for more spectrum as soon as possible.
Check out the comScore press release for more stats on the study:
At the MMTC Telecommunications Conference in Washington, D.C. last week, there were several references to a “re-do” of the 1996 Telecommunications Act. MMTC’s president David Honig announced that MMTC would initiate an effort to work with others to make sure that diversity issues were well represented in a rewrite of the Act.
The National Urban League’s President and CEO, Marc Morial, also spoke about the Telecommunications Act during his luncheon remarks. He stressed that it is a necessary action, and then spoke of the need for a bold twenty-first century broadband infrastructure.
While an update — or “redo” — of the Telecommunications Act by Congress is not an easy task, I agree with Honig that it is important that diversity issues be incorporated into any rewrite. As Marc Morial stated, diversity is in the public interest.
Late last week, at the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC) Conference Luncheon, AT&T was awarded the MMTC 2012 Corporate Diversity Leadership Award. AT&T’s Senior Executive Vice President Jim Cicconi accepted the award on behalf of the company. The award recognizes a corporation for extraordinary practices on behalf of women, minorities, and disabled veterans. Cicconi said that AT&T started its supplier diversity program forty years ago because it was the right thing to do and the company has viewed its commitment to diversity as a real value.
This week, wireless network expert Peter Rysavy, released a new paper addressing the issue of spectrum sharing: http://www.mobilefuture.org/spectrum_sharing. The paper, “Spectrum Sharing: the Promise and the Reality,” was released in conjunction with Mobile Future.
The main point of the paper is that while there is great promise in spectrum sharing — that it can and will eventually lead to efficient overall use of spectrum — it’s both a complicated and time-consuming process. In reviewing this paper, spectrum sharing doesn’t sound like a good solution for the spectrum crunch in the near future. The report addresses that concern and encourages government to consider all options for shorter term solutions for more spectrum.
What a great first line in this POLITICO article posted late Wednesday evening, “Lawmakers have a message for the federal government: We want your spectrum.” The message couldn’t be clear — it’s time to free-up more spectrum to help address the looming spectrum crunch.
On Tuesday, the Federal Spectrum Working Group, co-chaired by Representatives Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Brett Guthrie (R-KY), sent a letter to the NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Administration) focusing on the need to conduct a spectrum inventory of the military and other government users to “see what’s available that could help the private sector.”
The need to get more spectrum to market was also an issue that arose at the FCC oversight hearing of the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee on Tuesday. Lawmakers are concerned about the lengthy process of the auctions and incentives to more along the process were explored with the FCC Commissioners.
This is an important issue for consumers: policy makers need to move quickly to address the need for more spectrum to meet consumers growing demand for mobile data services.
There’s a new CNN story about AT&T’s “Digital Life” smart home (see here: http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/09/tech/innovation/att-digital-life/index.html). This home has many features that make it fully “connected,” including a great home security system that is highlighted in this CNN piece. As I had previously written, I was fortunate to see the Digital Life home first-hand when I was in New Orleans for CTIA’s wireless global convention a couple of months ago.
The features of the home security system are great for consumers and will certainly be a great product for the home. It will offer consumers the ability to monitor their homes remotely, as well as provide sensors that will help provide notification if there are some devices in the home that are malfunctioning. It also allows someone to keep track of what’s going on in and around their home when they’re sitting at work or at another location. It sounds great for one’s peace of mind.
AT&T is running some trials of the system this summer in Atlanta and Dallas and subscriptions should be available later this year. I think it’s an innovative service for consumers.
I read this interesting article today in the Lubbock based, Texas Avalanche Journal, about how consumers are substituting wireless for wireline in their homes. The article offers some thoughts on why consumers are moving away from landline service.
One interesting reason — and perhaps surprising for some– is that it saves consumers money. According to the article, “trend in dropping landlines is about people meeting their needs and saving money.” Increasingly consumers see their wireless phone as their primary phone, which can result in some savings.
The article also points to the evolution of wireless in our communications world and how it has changed the way we communicate. As noted in the article, “Seventeen-18 years ago, a landline was a necessity and a cell phone was a luxury; now it’s just the opposite, and a cellphone is a necessity and a landline is a luxury.” According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) the number of landlines has fallen from 157 million connections in 2007 to 146 million connections in June of 2011 — a 7% drop.
Read more about this topic here: http://m.lubbockonline.com/business/2012-07-07/phone-users-can-save-money-dropping-landlines
I think this new wireless tool would have come in quite handy last Friday evening as a severe storm descended on the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.
The National Weather Service has teamed-up with wireless providers to send subscribers alerts to their wireless devices about severe weather alerts near their location. The alerts for severe weather will include tornadoes, hurricanes, flash floods, extreme wind, blizzards and ice storms, tsunamis and dust storms.
The Wireless Emergency Alert system, will allow Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to deliver warning messages to wireless networks from the President, the weather service, and state and local emergency operations centers.
Many major wireless carriers now offer the service. Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile offer it nationwide, and AT&T offers it in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Portland, OR, but is currently working to expand it to more markets.
With these alerts, our wireless devices are now an even greater life-saving information source. Read more about it at here, on Fierce Wireless.
There’s an interesting new survey out about how mobile technology is influencing the way we work; providing more flexibility while also increasing our actual “work” time. The survey from Good Technology, the leading provider of secure and managed enterprise mobility for a range of mobile devices, reveals that mobile technology now gives us the opportunity to work where we want, when we want. However, we are also working, on average, about 30 hours of additional time a month. The time is spent mostly checking e-mail and responding to calls. Our constantly connected world may mean some additional work hours on our mobile devices, but as the survey also reveals, these devices allow us to spend less time in the office and offer greater flexibility as to where we actually do our work. Not a bad trade off. Read more about the survey here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/07/02/4604643/good-technology-survey-reveals.html