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CTIA – The Wireless

Wireless Executives Debate Role of Next-Generation Services

in Wireless by

WASHINGTON, February 11, 2009 – Wireless industry veterans butted heads during a panel discussion at Tuesday morning’s Broadband Breakfast Club. Organized by BroadbandCensus.com, the event focused on the role of wireless services in next-generation broadband deployment.

The four-month delay in transitioning the United States to digital television will not affect Verizon’s plans to deploy its fourth-generation service dubbed Long-Term Evolution (LTE), said assistant vice president for wireless and spectrum policy Donald Brittingham.

Despite paying $9 billion for much of the 700 Megahertz spectrum that until last week had been set to vacated by television stations on February 17, Brittingham maintained that Verizon had never planned to begin deploying LTE immediately after the transition date. Instead, the carrier will conduct a period of testing before implementing an “aggressive plan” to deploy their 4G service before year’s end, he said.

Brittingham predicted that LTE will become the world-wide standard for 4G wireless broadband instead of the WiMax technology adopted by rival Sprint-Clearwire. The 700 MHz spectrum for LTE’s  will allow for “substantially better” service and let Verizon serve areas where it previously had not been economical, he said.

The transition will unleash productivity benefits for both consumers and businesses, as well as public safety and homeland security stakeholders, said Steve Sharkey, senior director of regulatory and spectrum policy for Motorola. While Sharkey said a smooth transition should “not be taken lightly,” he warned that the delay puts economic activity associated with next-generation services on hold.

The public safety sector has been moving into the 700 MHz band for years, said John Kneuer, formerly Assistant Secretary of Commerce and head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and currently a consultant working for a number of clients promoting public safety communications, including Rivada. Kneuer was confident that the DTV switch will allow even more communities to deploy next generation systems for their first responders.

Wireless services outside of the 700 MHz band should also be green-lighted to allow more broadband competition nationwide, said M2Z Networks CEO John Muleta. If the goal of increased penetration isn’t taken more seriously, than any policy on wireless broadband has failed, he said. Muleta said that a one percent increase in broadband penetration could create 800,000 jobs.

The variety of services available in the 700 MHz band means that consumers don’t have to choose one particular technology, said Motorola’s Sharkey. The choice between licensed spectrum and unlicensed “white space” devices is not an “either/or” choice, he said.

Sharkey broke from the practice of referring to wireless as a “third pipe” along with cable and fiber services. “We’re now at a place where we have five to six pipes,” he said. Policymakers should allow as many technologies as possible to be used to fill underserved gaps in the population, he said. But between LTE, WiMax, and other technologies, he suggested most communities have very competitive marketplaces for wireless services.

Convincing consumers to adopt wireless services will be a “nagging problem,” said M2Z’s Muleta.  Speed is only one factor in consumer choice, he said. Muleta lamented the lack of ecosystems for developing open, carrier-agnostic applications and said that wireless executives visit Silicon Valley and see how frustrated developers are at the lack of open standards for development. What consumers really want is “really cool applications,” he said.

Sharkey said that the success of Apple’s iPhone app store rebutted Muleta’s arguments. But Muleta dismissed Apple’s platform as a closed environment when compared with Google’s Android operating system and Verizon’s open device initiative. Government policies like the open access requirements of the 700 MHz auction support market innovations that drive new applications, Muleta said.

Sharkey said that the limiting factor in consumer adoption of wireless broadband has been hardware, not software. He predicted that as the performance gap between mobile devices and desktop machines narrows, open access will become the norm, much like the way software is loaded on a desktop PC today. Eventually, most people around the world will be on wireless broadband, he said.

A wireless world will have a place for smaller companies as well as the major carriers, said Tom DeRiggi of Rapid DSL and Wireless, a wireless service provider. Fixed wireless services like his company’s are “very nimble” and can provide faster speeds than mobile technologies, he said. While fixed wireless won’t compete head-to-head with fiber, DeRiggi predicted the high cost of fiber would allow space in the market for other services.

Fixed wireless has benefits no other service can provide, DeRiggi said. His company deployed service to the Capitol and Lincoln Memorial for last month’s inaugural festivities on little notice, with great success, he said. “Who can provide 100 megabits in two days?” he asked.

But consumers ultimately may not care whether their wireless is fixed or mobile as long as their access comes with “the least amount of friction,” said Muleta. Instead of focusing on getting subsidies to build out to rural areas, the industry and regulators should change the debate to one about what consumers want, not what the industry wants, he said.

Brittingham took a shot at M2Z’s proposal to offer a free tier of service over the Advanced Wireless Service 3 band in exchange for the spectrum license. It was  an idea supported by former FCC chairman Kevin Martin, but held up by concerns over plans to require the service to filter out adult content. “Buy it,” he told Muleta. “Don’t ask the FCC to give it away for free.”

But Muleta fired back, pointing out that 80 percent of the spectrum offered in the 2007 auctions was bought by 2 carriers, Verizon and AT&T. Spectrum isn’t sold in a free market, he said — the FCC is the only place to get it.

The Broadband Breakfast Club is sponsored by CTIA – The Wireless Association and the Benton Foundation.

Editor’s Note

The Broadband Breakfast Club is a monthly discussion form meeting on the second Tuesday of the month at the Old Ebbitt Grill in Washington.

Archived webcasts of the Broadband Breakfast Club are now available on the BroadbandCensus.com channel on TV Mainstream. One full year of online access to each premium webcast is available for $40.00, at http://www.tvmainstream.com/series/bbclub/

TV Mainstream

Telecommunications policy advocates, attorneys, policy-makers and journalists seeking to obtain insights from top officials in Washington can attend the Broadband Breakfast Club, which includes a full American and Continental breakfast, for as little as $45.00, plus a modest registration fee. Registration is available at http://broadbandbreakfast.eventbrite.com

The events are on the record and open to the public. Individuals who register to attend the Broadband Breakfast Club will also receive a full year of complementary online access to the webcast.

Next Breakfast Club: The Role of Wireless Frequencies in Widespread Broadband Deployment

in Broadband Calendar by

Representatives of Verizon Communications, Motorola, M2Z Networks and former Assistant Secretary of Commerce John Kneuer to Headline February 10 Broadband Breakfast Club

Press Releases

NEW! February 2, 2009 – Tom DeRiggi, of Rapid DSL & Wireless, a wireless internet service provider, has also joined the panel discussion.

WASHINGTON, January 28, 2009 – With broadband-related funding a key part of discussion about the fiscal stimulus legislation currently being considered in Congress, five top officials from companies with an interest in the wireless space will assemble at the Broadband Breakfast Club on February 10 to discuss the role that electromagnetic frequencies can play in forging universal broadband deployment.

The speakers at the breakfast, at the Old Ebbitt Grill in Washington from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. on February 10, 2009, will be:

  • Donald C. Brittingham, Assistant Vice President, Wireless/Spectrum Policy, Verizon Communications
  • Tom DeRiggi, Rapid DSL & Wireless (a local wireless internet service provider)
  • John Kneuer, former Assistant Secretary of Commerce, 2006-2007; John Kneuer Associates
  • John Muleta, CEO, M2Z Networks
  • Steve B. Sharkey, Senior Director, Regulatory and Spectrum Policy, Motorola

Telecommunications policy advocates, attorneys, policy-makers and journalists seeking to obtain insights from top officials in Washington can attend the Broadband Breakfast Club, which includes a full American and Continental breakfast, for as little as $45.00, plus a modest registration fee. The events are on the record and open to the public. Register here for the next breakfast event.

For individuals outside of Washington, or whose schedule doesn’t permit attendance in person, archived webcasts of the Broadband Breakfast Club are now available on the BroadbandCensus.com channel on TV Mainstream. One full year of online access to each premium webcast is available for $40.00.

Individuals who register to attend the Broadband Breakfast Club will also receive a full year of complementary online access to the webcast.

Using the airwaves to transmit internet-based communications can offer a less expensive way to provide universal broadband. Still, policy-makers frequently find a trade-off between ubiquitity and mobility on the one hand, versus the speed and stability of some wire-based connections.

Of the $6 billion in the House Appropriations Committee version of the fiscal stimulus legislation, $1 billion would be allocated exclusively for wireless broadband: 75 percent going to providers of “advanced wireless broadband service” – defined as 3 Megabits per second (Mbps) for downloads and 1 Mbps for uploads – in underserved areas. The remaining 25 percent would go to entities providing wireless voice services in unserved areas.

The 3 Mbps download/1 Mbps upload threshold contrasts with a funding requirement that recipients from a $1.85 billion pool of wire-based grants offer broadband at speeds of 45 Mbps for downloads, and 15 Mbps for uploads, in underserved ares.

The Broadband Breakfast Club event on February 10, 2009, will be moderated by Drew Clark, Editor and Executive Director of BroadbandCensus.com.

Clark is a veteran telecom and technology journalist, and he founded BroadbandCensus.com in January 2008 as a means of providing the public with a free and objective resource of the wired and wireless local broadband carriers, grouped by ZIP code, by speed, by competition and by consumer satisfaction.

Besides the role of wireless in the fiscal stimulus package, other issues to be considered at the breakfast will be: a potential delay in the transition to digital television, from February 17, 2009, to June 2009; the status of the 700 Megahertz spectrum band; the role of advanced public safety networks; how the “white spaces” between television channels may promote greater broadband access; and the process and method for FCC allocation of other radio frequencies.

Beginning at 8 a.m., an American plus Continental breakfast is available downstairs in the Cabinet Room. This is followed by a discussion, beginning shortly after 8:30 a.m. and ending just before 10 a.m. The breakfast club  meets on the second Tuesday of each month until March 2009. The registration page for the event is http://broadbandbreakfast.eventbrite.com.

The November meeting, “Should Government Funding Be Part of a National Broadband Plan?” featured a discussion with Stan Fendley of Corning, Kyle McSlarrow of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association and telecommunications consultant John Windhausen, Jr.

The December meeting, “How Applications and Broadband Mapping Harness Demand for High-Speed Internet,” included Geoff Daily, a blogger for App-Rising.com; Susan Fox, a vice president at Walt Disney; Neal Neuberger, executive director of the Institute for e-Health Policy; and Alan Shark, executive director of the Public Technology Institute. Click here for access to this webcast.

The January meeting, “What Will Broadband Do to the Universal Service Fund,” included Jay Driscoll of CTIA – The Wireless Association; Gregory Rohde, former Assistant Secretary of Commerce under President Clinton and executive director of the the E-9-1-1 Institute; Jennifer Schneider, Office of Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Technology and the Internet; and Curt Stamp of the Independent Telephone and Telecommunications Alliance. Click here for access to this webcast.

The meeting on Tuesday, March 10, 2009, will be on “Broadband Competition: Do We Have It, and How Do We Get More of It?” and will feature James Baller, president of Baller Herbst Law Group; Art Brodsky, communication director of Public Knowledge; Scott Wallsten, vice president for research and senior fellow, Technology Policy Institute; and others.

Registration for future breakfasts is available at http://broadbandbreakfastclub.eventbrite.com.

Because of the limited size of the venue, seated attendance will be reserved the first 45 individuals to register.

Webcasts of the Broadband Breakfast Club Produced in Partnership with:

TV Mainstream

The Broadband Breakfast Club is sponsored by CTIA – The Wireless Association, and the Benton Foundation.

For further information, or to become a sponsor of the Broadband Breakfast Club, please contact: drew at broadbandcensus.com, or call 202-580-8196.

About BroadbandCensus.com

The Broadband Breakfast Club is hosted by BroadbandCensus.com, which provides free information and news about local broadband speeds, prices, availability, reliability and competition. As with BroadbandCensus.com, the Broadband Breakfast Club seeks to light on key issues in broadband technology and internet policy through public disclosure and discussion.

BroadbandCensus.com uses “crowdsourcing” to allow internet users to share information about their internet experiences. Take the Broadband Census today at http://broadbandcensus.com/census/form.

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