Yesterday, AT&T’s Jim Cicconi talked about federal spectrum policies while on a panel at the Brookings Institution here in Washington, D.C. Although there was a question or two (ok, maybe a few more) about our recent announcement, panelists spent a good amount of time discussing the need for incentive auctions.
If you’re a regular visitor to our blog, you know that we’ve been talking for a while now about the critical need for sensible spectrum reform, and how broadcasters should become a part of the solution.
In case you weren’t able to attend yesterday’s event, below is a clip of Jim on why it doesn’t make economic sense to allow broadcasters to continue to sit on such valuable spectrum (which they got for free, btw). He also asks, if broadcasters really need all this spectrum for over-the-air broadcasting, why do they also need must carry – government rules that require competing video providers to carry broadcasters’ signals?
Oh, and be sure to stick around after listening to Jim. Blair Levin has some interesting remarks on this subject as well…
On Wednesday, Chairman Genachowski outlined his goals for spectrum reform to deliver on the promise and potential of this country’s mobile broadband future. In response, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) issued two separate statements promising (again) that broadcasters will work with policymakers to address our country’s spectrum challenges, but then demonstrating that NAB is not yet interested in real cooperation.
First, NAB attempted to sell the notion that their 1950’s-era broadcast transmission model is somehow a superior technology – as if nothing better has happened technologically in the last 50 years. Then, they seem to argue that consumers really prefer their model, despite overwhelming evidence that U.S. consumers are embracing, indeed demanding, the “any content, anywhere” promise of mobile broadband. Any American even remotely aware of what’s going on knows this. Simply put, consumers no longer want the old, centrally-controlled content delivery model the broadcasters offer. Only 10% of households now depend on over-the-air television, and that number is dropping like a stone.
As if striving for a trifecta of incongruity, NAB then insinuated the problem isn’t their own massive warehousing and underuse of precious spectrum resources. Instead, the problem is everyone else. It’s not their 1950’s transmission method that’s inefficient; the fault is with modern devices that receive their signals. And somehow those companies making the largest capital investments in the U.S., and perhaps the largest private capital investments in American history, aren’t investing fast enough to suit the broadcasters.
Posted by: Joan Marsh on February 15, 2011 at 10:44 am
After seeing NAB’s latest salvo in the spectrum debate in the Feb. 7 issue of Communications Daily, I have to admit that I agree with NAB on one point: it’s time to move beyond the rhetoric. Let’s dissect NAB’s most recent retort.
First, NAB claims that the “spectrum crisis” rhetoric is overheated. There’s certainly been a lot of (wasted) debate about the phrase “spectrum crisis.” Honestly, it doesn’t matter what you call it: you can call it a crisis; you can call it a crunch; you can call it a duck. What matters is what it means for U.S. wireless leadership and the availability of wireless data services by U.S. consumers.
There is no longer any serious debate that mobile data traffic growth continues to explode. Let’s turn again to the recent Cisco forecast. By 2015, global mobile data traffic is forecasted to reach an annual run rate of 75 exabytes. That’s the equivalent of 19 billion DVDs, or about 75 times the amount of global IP traffic (mobile and fixed together) generated in 2000.
No matter what label is used, these types of growth trends will lead to only one result: wireless network capacity exhaust (a topic appropriate for a separate blog). So, we can continue to mindlessly debate whether there’s really a spectrum “crisis,” or we can get on with discussing how this country is going to manage forecasted wireless data demands while maintaining leadership in the global wireless revolution.
In a statement yesterday, NAB raised points they thought it important to note. We think it’s also important to note that in the last four years alone, AT&T paid more than $10 billion simply for the rights to spectrum for our LTE wireless build. This amount had to be paid before we could even begin spending the billions also required for the actual build out of LTE.
This can be contrasted with the broadcast spectrum at issue here, for which the broadcasters paid nothing, and which, when used at all, serves only a sliver of the population with services that, at best, duplicate robust services widely available elsewhere. In short, if NAB is truly committed to identifying those “sitting” on unused or underused spectrum, they can start by looking in the mirror.
As for the NAB’s call for a government inventory of spectrum, this is another party to which they’re late. AT&T and the entire wireless industry were early supporters of spectrum inventory legislation. Government scrutiny of spectrum use is already underway, and government agencies have identified the broadcasters’ spectrum as underutilized. No wireless company fears a careful examination of spectrum usage. Indeed, the only entity reacting in an over-stressed way at the prospect of such scrutiny is NAB.
Posted by: Joan Marsh on February 1, 2011 at 5:37 pm
In a town that rarely sees agreement, there is now broad consensus regarding U.S. wireless broadband demand trends and the need to ensure that America keeps pace with the global wireless revolution. And almost everyone agrees that the key component to meeting exploding consumer demand for wireless data services is more spectrum. Almost everyone, that is, except NAB. In an astonishing display of denial and false accusation, NAB circulated a letter this week accusing wireless carriers of being spectrum hoarders.
The wireless industry collectively shares about 425 MHz of mobile wireless spectrum used to serve over 292 million customers, and that number is growing. The broadcast industry, by contrast, currently uses roughly half that to serve only 10 million over-the-air households, and that number is shrinking. The wireless industry is currently racing to build the 4th generation of wireless networks (the third voluntary digital transition), investing billions of dollars and leading the world in wireless innovation and LTE deployment. The broadcasters, by contrast, continue to rely on the same inefficient big stick distribution model that went digital via Congressional mandate in 2009, but otherwise hasn’t changed that much since color television was first introduced in 1953.