One Aspect of U.S. Lagging Broadband Speeds May Be Device-Network Compatibility, Say Panelists

FCC Workshops, National Broadband Plan September 8th, 2009

, Reporter-Researcher, BroadbandBreakfast.com

WASHINGTON, August 27, 2009 – Experts speaking at the Federal Communications Commission’s August 27 broadband workshop on technology applications puzzled over the reasons for the United States’ lagging internet speed vis-à-vis other global competitors.

Tim Napoleon, chief digital media strategist for Akamai Technologies, said that Seoul, South Korea, has the fastest average broadband service of the world, with average speeds of 11 Megabits per second (Mbps).

With the speed of broadband affecting the applications on certain devices, the devices and the applications it utilizes must change in order to reap the benefits of faster internet connections.

“There are issues concerning the connectivity of networks for devices,” said Evan Young, senior director of product telemarketing of TiVo. “One of these issues is the access of signal for using the networks.”

Young said that when certain devices are only provided with certain networks – for example, the iPhone only uses AT&T wireless network –the consumer’s choice of services is limited.

Devices connected to fixed and mobile wireless networks have an average speed of 3.8 Mbps, he said.

With a connection speed that is lower than the average, watching videos or listening to music clips takes time people cannot afford, panelists said. Nor can the providers afford such a delay.

According to Benchmark Capital General Partner Bill Gurley, Comcast and Verizon Communications’ network strategy is currently dependent upon video revenue. Increasing broadband speeds may open up other revenue opportunities, he said.

Gurley also touted the idea of “open spectrum,” or the ability for device manufacturers to deploy unlicensed radio frequencies for hopping from bandwidth to bandwidth to pass information wirelessly. “Venture capitalists are in favor of an open spectrum… [They are] fans of any policy in favor for some open spectrum.”

Even with only some radio frequencies devoted to unlicensed wireless uses, a blank canvas would be spread out for innovation and investment, he said. That would let new ideas surface for the advancement of services and networks.

The possibility exists that even if network speed capabilities expand, device capabilities would not expand at a commensurate rate.

“Is it possible for devices to hold back certain networks?” asked Brian David, adoption and usage director and member of the FCC broadband team.

Robb Topolski said that device portability was holding back the wireless network in Portland, Oregon. ”They have a Clearwire service. Their network only has accessibility to online data because there is no voice device compatible to be connected to that network.”

Said Anoop Gupta, corporate vice president for technology, policy and strategy for Microsoft, “They have to make sure these devices have not only the capabilities to connect to the service in one area, but in multiple areas.”

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