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Wireless Industry Complaints Closely Related to Competition, Say Panelists

WASHINGTON, December 14, 2009 – What’s the greatest source of dissatisfaction in the mobile wireless industry? Ironically, according to industry experts and government representatives attending a conference on customer complaints, it is competition itself.

The size and pervasiveness of the mobile device market has exploded. In the space of just 17 years, the number of active mobile subscribers in the United States has exploded from 11 million to 276 million. An increased number of complaints have accompanied this market growth.

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WASHINGTON, December 14, 2009 – What’s the greatest source of dissatisfaction in the mobile wireless industry? Ironically, according to industry experts and government representatives attending a conference on customer complaints, it is competition itself.

The size and pervasiveness of the mobile device market has exploded. In the space of just 17 years, the number of active mobile subscribers in the United States has exploded from 11 million to 276 million. An increased number of complaints have accompanied this market growth.

Why does market growth and competition lead to complaints? Several factors may be at work, panelists said. As mobile hardware becomes more and more varied and creation of applications continues, consumers’ expectations increase, leading to complaints.

Speaking about the success of Apple’s iPhone, Lois C. Greisman of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission commented that, “if [the iPhone] hadn’t become so successful we wouldn’t have this many complaints. We sort of get a leapfrogging effect with the competition of companies like Verizon.”

The release of new devices and technology forces companies to rapidly innovate and expand to keep up with competition. “This move speaks to the success of the marketplace,” added Greisman.

“Innovations of technology can actually stimulate complaints,” agreed Robert Roche, Vice President of Research at CTIA – The Wireless Association.

John W. Mayo of Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business – who co-organized the conference – disagreed, however, that this competition increases complaints.

He coauthored a recently released study, “Can You Hear Me Now?’ Exit, Voice and Loyalty under Increasing Competition,” which suggested that competition actually decreases the number of complaints. He contended that as competition increases, more consumers are able to exit the market and switch, leaving the product for a more attractive alternative.

Besides competition, the accessibility of regulatory commissions and underlying American mentality contribute to the number of complaints.

“The FTC [Federal Trade Commission] does make it a lot easier, but Americans also seem prone to it,” said Greisman.

“There weren’t a lot of people complaining to the politburo in the Soviet Union.”

The FTC handles much of the nation’s consumer complaints, between 35,000 and 45,000 each week. The information is received in a variety of ways, not only by conventional mail and telephone hotline services, but through an online reporting system. This online system was groundbreaking when it was created in 1997, and allows consumers to make their voices more easily heard.

Why does the FTC deal with these complaints when many of them have nothing to do with the commission’s responsibilities?

“First of all, it’s good government,” said Greisman. “And second, it provides us with good information”

This information can prove invaluable both in the ongoing fight against fraud and for policy makers trying to improve conditions. The online system has already made this easier and expansion of broadband to help link other agencies and systems together quickly and efficiently is the next step. In a world where wasted time can mean more lost money by consumers, the stakes are high.

“Consumers want intervention, and they wanted it yesterday,” said Greisman.

Telecommunication was one of many industries studied for the forum, “Unpacking Customer Satisfaction: The Role of Customer Complaints Across Industries and Agencies,” hosted by Georgetown University’s Center for Business & Public Policy.

Among the questions considered at the forum included:

  • What are the types of complaints that industries and government agencies face?
  • How active are government agencies in the complaint process?
  • Are government agencies effective in addressing/rectifying customer complaints?
  • Do firms and agencies have customer complaint processes in place?

Spectrum

It Will Take Multiple Strategies to Provide Enough Spectrum for Nascent Technologies, Expert Says

Rysavy argued that it would take an “all of the above” approach to meet the coming need for spectrum.

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Photo of Peter Rysavy (left) from January 2018 by the Internet Education Foundation used with permission

WASHINGTON, May 27, 2022 – Spectrum sharing can provide unique opportunities for needed bandwidth, but it is not an end-all-be-all solution, and the U.S. cannot afford to turn down any strategies freeing up more spectrum, a spectrum expert said Wednesday during a Georgetown University event.

Spectrum sharing often refers to dynamic spectrum sharing, a process whereby an operator uses a radio band that is already being used by an incumbent operator. The incumbent may not use the band all the time, and thus the incumbent can allow the secondary operator to use the band when the incumbent does not need it.

During an event hosted by the university’s Center for Business and Public Policy, Rysavy Research CEO Peter Rysavy said that while this process can have useful applications, its utility is not limitless.

Rysavy explained that spectrum sharing solutions have only been developed to address specific scenarios for specific systems. “We do not today have any spectrum sharing solution that is general purpose – that can be applied to arbitrary systems,” he said.

This specialized and complex nature makes spectrum sharing solutions makes them not only more expensive, but also take longer to deploy.

Rysavy advocated for what he referred to as an “all of the above approach,” whereby spectrum sharing, licensed, and unlicensed spectrum strategies are utilized to address the U.S.’s growing need for broadband as 5G services continue to expand.

He referred to several killer applications for 5G, such as home broadband, augmented reality, and the metaverse that will be completely dependent on 5G infrastructure.

“We are really reaching the limits of physics as far as how efficient the technology is,” Rysavy said. “There are other things you can do on the edges, but there is only so far you can go with technology.”

Rysavy explained that growing physical infrastructure – such as increasing the number of small cell signal boosters – is not sufficient in resolving the need for bandwidth. “Ultimately, you do have to keep adding more spectrum into the equation – there is just no other way around it.”

Though Rysavy noted that wireless cannot compete with fiber in terms of bandwidth, he stated that it should not be viewed as a “wireless versus fiber” situation.

“The way to look at it is that we are extending fiber through the environment and close to the endpoint all the time,” he said. “The question then is just ‘how do we connect that last 100 yards?’”

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Wireless

Starry Hosts First Earnings Call, Says its Model Positions it to Compete Against Larger Players

Starry CEO assured investors that Starry’s technology model allows them to compete with other more established providers.

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Photo of Staryy CEO Chet Kanojia, from Starry

WASHINGTON, May 12, 2022 – In its first earnings call since becoming a publicly-traded company, telecom company Starry Inc. reported continued profitability and a desire to expand its services.

Starry, which uses fixed-wireless technology for the last-mile with support from a fiber-based middle-mile, merged with special purpose acquisition company FirstMark Horizon Acquisition Corp to go public in March. Its founder and CEO Chet Kanojia said on the earnings call Thursday that Starry has the potential to be a disruptor.

“The opportunity in broadband is to be able to disrupt the sector with extremely low-cost technologies, and to be able to achieve scale with less investment compared to traditional approaches that have been used in the past,” Kanojia said.

“This is not a concept company – we have found investors willing to finance our approach,” Kanojia said. “However, the business ultimately will require more capital,” adding that last quarter, the average user consumed 574 gigabytes of downstream and a substantial amount of upstream.

Kanojia also emphasized that urban and dense suburban areas continue to make up the majority of Starry’s consumer base.

“In order to succeed as a service provider, we need to be able to match speed and capacity,” he added.

Kanojia also said that connecting a new customer to the network costs around $100, and this is over years of improving and refining the process in order to keep the cost down.

In addition to operating the infrastructure, Kanojia said that Starry owns it as well, which has allowed the company to cut down on supply chain interruptions and exercise more control over how the technology is implemented.

“The underlying economic model remains extremely healthy and unchanged,” Kanojia said. “We continue to see the potential for raising the profitability.

“This gives us a lot of confidence that the underlying economic model works as intended and reinforced our desire to expand.”

Chet Kanojia will be the guest on Broadband.Money’s Ask Me Anything! series on Friday, May 13, 2022, at 2:30 p.m. ET.

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Spectrum

Rosenworcel Proposes Funding Infrastructure and 911 Transition with Spectrum Auction Money

The FCC’s chairwoman spoke on the future of spectrum during a Tuesday CTIA event on 5G’s climate impacts.

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Photo of FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel by T.J. York

WASHINGTON, May 11, 2022 – Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel on Tuesday proposed using funds raised in upcoming spectrum auctions held by the commission to fund infrastructure projects and the transition to a next-generation 911 system.

The proposal came as part of a list of potential future areas of focus on spectrum from the commission during Rosenworcel’s session at wireless trade association CTIA’s 2022 5G Summit focusing on 5G’s impacts on climate.

Rosenworcel has stated in the past that she would like spectrum auction proceeds to go towards updating the national 911 system.

Proposed upgrades include allowing 911 callers to send first responders photos, videos and text messages rather than just calls. A bill also exists in Congress to upgrade 911, the Next-Generation 911 Act, authorizing federal grants to go towards the upgrades.

In March the FCC announced that in July it would auction 2.5 GHz band licenses for 5G services.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., also speaking at Tuesday’s event, added to the calls for upgrades to the national 911 system.

Rosenworcel also spoke about the possibility of legislation targeting mid-band spectrum and development of next-gen wireless networks, work on updates to the Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act that governs allocation of spectrum to the commercial sector, as well as a greater focus on receiver performance and procurement practices rather than just examining transmitters.

She emphasized that the commission is always actively working on spectrum policy through the Affordable Connectivity Program, the freeing up of spectrum with a particular focus on mid band, advocating for a national spectrum plan, and broadband data collection via the provisions of the Broadband DATA Act. She stated that the commission is actively involved with National Telecommunications and Information Administration head Alan Davidson on freeing up spectrum.

Additional speakers at Tuesday’s event included director of the White House’s National Economic Council Brian Deese, who noted that in the coming weeks and months there will be many more announcements on broadband funding from the administration on money to come from new and existing sources, and Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky.

Guthrie voiced frustration with government agencies not designated authority on spectrum over the role they took in public debates on spectrum policy, largely related to the Federal Aviation Administration’s influence over cellular providers to make concessions on their rollout of 5G over safety concerns earlier this year.

“And we must always continue to address inter-agency coordination issues,” said Guthrie.

He stated the necessity of these agencies communicating concerns to the NTIA and FCC rather than directly involving themselves in policy discussions.

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