When Apps Attack

Posted by: Joan Marsh on October 25, 2010 at 9:56 pm

Anyone who believes that FCC-mandated net neutrality could or should be applied to wireless networks ought to read Mike Dano’s recent article at FierceWireless.  Dano’s focus is an FCC filing earlier this year by T-Mobile which described in detail the damage caused by a poorly designed instant messaging app that pinged the network with substantial frequency creating signaling problems:

“These signaling problems not only caused network overload problems that affected all [local] broadband users; it also ended up forcing [a reengineering of the radio architecture] to address this never-before-seen signaling issue.”

According to the filing, this one application caused an increase in data use of as much as 1,200 percent on a single device.

To be clear, I am not casting stones.  We have been on the frontlines of the mobile broadband data and app revolution, working and investing furiously to keep pace with the exploding demand for wireless data services.  But this experience shows once again how the advocated “all apps are created equal” regulatory straightjacket, which doesn’t even make sense for the wired web, is spectacularly ill-suited for wireless networks.

Even pro-Net neutrality advocate Robert Cringley has acknowledged that a handful of Slingbox streams are enough to overtake the capacity of a cell tower.   

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AT&T Statement on the
FCC’s Spectrum Plans

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on October 21, 2010 at 2:20 pm

(BACKGROUND: Today, the FCC released a technical analysis of the benefits from the reallocation of additional spectrum to commercial mobile broadband use.  The FCC’s new analysis finds, using conservative projections and assumptions, that the spectrum deficit will approach 300 MHz by 2014, and that making additional spectrum available for mobile broadband use will add substantial economic value in the next five years.)

The following statement may be attributed to Robert Quinn, AT&T Senior Vice President, Federal Regulatory.

“The FCC’s forecast and the supporting analysis are fully borne out by what we see daily on our wireless broadband networks.  Faster, more intelligent networks, coupled with increasingly more sophisticated connected devices and prolific application development has led to accelerated growth across the mobile broadband ecosystem.  New wireless broadband devices are emerging at an unprecedented rate as are connected machine-to-machine devices.  Consider that 57% of AT&T’s postpaid subscriber base now has an integrated device.  All of this means that mobile broadband traffic is surging on the trajectories predicted in the FCC’s analysis.”

“We commend FCC Chairman Genachowski for understanding the urgency in making more spectrum available for mobile broadband, and for moving quickly to solve this major problem. Additional spectrum is not only essential for the wireless industry, it is vital in meeting the needs of hundreds of millions of wireless customers. More wireless spectrum will also support economic growth and job creation at an important time. We look forward to working with the FCC and Chairman Genachowski so that we can unleash the value of new mobile broadband spectrum.”

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A Few More Thoughts on Wireless

Posted by: Joan Marsh on August 17, 2010 at 4:57 pm

I got a lot of reaction to my original blog entitled Wireless is Different.  Some good, some critical, but all of it important to the debate.  I welcomed it all, especially the responses from those that disagreed, because it creates an opportunity for a better explanation, a more detailed understanding of what’s actually happening out there on our wireless networks.

Some just are not convinced that wireless is in fact different in any way that matters to the net neutrality debate.  While they didn’t rebut the fundamental points I made regarding the finite nature of wireless network capacity, they viewed the argument as a strawman for some underlying intent by wireless network providers to block apps and services at their whim.  At its core, this opposition is rooted in a fundamental concern about who is going to control the apps and services that wireless network providers deliver over their finite and shared wireless infrastructure.

The answer to that is quite simply:  the customer.  User consumption is fueling the new mobile broadband revolution and there is not a wireless network provider out there doing anything but trying to keep up.  Again, let’s turn to some facts. 

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Wireless is Different

Posted by: Joan Marsh on August 13, 2010 at 2:23 pm

It’s now day four of the aftermath of the Verizon-Google net neutrality announcement and the number of voices weighing in on the matter continues to grow.  Monday’s news fanned what was already a passionate discussion.  And it also brought into focus a critical aspect of the net neutrality debate – the treatment of wireless networks in any net neutrality regime.

There is much misinformation out there about this issue, as well as a genuine lack of understanding about the limits technology and physics impose on wireless networks.  It was therefore a pleasant surprise to read Fortune’s take on the matter.

The article’s opening line sums it up: “Unrestricted access rules for wireless networks would hurt users more than help them. They just don’t realize it.”  We’ve been making this point for several months now but we can’t emphasize it enough:  wireless is simply different.

Wireless broadband is an extraordinary technology and has led to countless innovative (and really cool) mobile services.  It has completely altered how we communicate, play, consume news and information and watch videos. It plays an enormous role in our daily lives, and it will continue to do so at an ever-increasing pace.  But we have huge challenges ahead, defined by the ever-constant struggle between capacity and demand.  

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It’s Not Just About Price

Posted by: Carl Povelites on July 21, 2010 at 1:06 pm

In the FCC’s 14th Annual Wireless Competition Report, the Commission identifies three broad categories of non-price rivalry among wireless providers, including, (1) network upgrades; (2) product information and perception; and (3) downstream product differentiation.   With the launch of a new smartphone almost every month – the new Bold, the new iPhone, the Incredible – the FCC is being schooled in non-price rivalry on a regular basis.

Let’s briefly look at each of the three broad categories identified by the FCC.  First, network upgrades, a very broad category that includes everything to do with the network – technology deployed, coverage, speed of transferring data, etc.  A person would have to be hard pressed not to believe that there is intense competition (yes, I will say it, effective competition) in this area, where entire marketing campaigns are designed to one-up the competition.  The FCC’s report does a decent job in highlighting not only the major carriers’ investments in technology and coverage, but also that of smaller providers and new entrants, such as Leap and Clearwire.

Typical of this report though, while noting positive data, such as the fact that 99.6% of the population has mobile data coverage, 98.1% of the population has mobile broadband coverage or that 95.9% of the population is served by three or more providers, the report looks hard to point out a negative.  Instead of admitting that only 4.1% of Americans lack access to three or more providers, the FCC instead explains that 30% of rural Americans lack 3 or more choices – purposely twisting a good news story into one that sounds worse than it is. 

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