As always, it is great being in Las Vegas for another CTIA show. This industry is happening and I’m really excited to learn more about some of the new gadgets and products on the horizon. With that in mind, I thought I’d hear more about the evolving nature of this industry and it is this evolution that makes it quite exciting. However, the major message coming out of CTIA, in my opinion, is much more policy focused than usual — “We need more spectrum.”
Ralph de la Vega (CEO, AT&T Mobility) kicked off the start of the show with a snapshot of where the industry is and what will be needed (more spectrum). Mr. de la Vega highlighted the fact that the United States leads the world in 3G subscribers. It is estimated that the U.S. has 117 Million 3G subscribers with Japan (101M) and South Korea trailing (40M). With subscribers in mind, Mr. de la Vega discussed how much the industry is spending and plans to spend on wireless infrastructure. Specifically, he projected that the industry will spend $22-$23 Billion in 2010.
After providing this snapshot of the industry , he addressed the critical question of whether or not the industry can handle the growing appetite for mobile broadband. Accordingly, he offered up a blue print for taking on this issue.
(1) “increasing available spectrum” – This point has been hammered everywhere. On that note, the FCC recently called for 500 MHz to be available for wireless broadband over the decade and that 300 MHz be available within the next 5 years.
(2) “accelerating network efficiency” – In this instance, Mr. de la Vega discussed LTE and the network efficiencies that can be derived from that technology – it is about 2.5X more efficient that HSPA.
(3) “capitalizing on Wi-Fi and Femto” – I don’t have too much to add on this point. Offloading traffic is an important part of the solution. I’ve always been a big fan of Wi-Fi.
(4) “ensuring application efficiency” – This is a point that is starting to be repeated more often and it is a good thing. Developers need to be cognizant of the amount of bandwidth a particular application is going to have on the network.
Spectrum is the lifeblood of this industry and we need more capacity to keep the momentum going in this space. The FCC’s efforts in the National Broadband Plan is a great start. However, there needs to be more talk about spectral efficiency as we get ready for the long battle ahead to free up more capacity.