Five years ago, the FCC considered eliminating the analog requirement on wireless carriers. At that point in time, I was at AT&T Wireless and we were advocating to policymakers and regulators to end the government mandate. FCC Chairman Michael Powell did not take action and AT&T Wireless was bought by Cingular the next year. Spectrum capacity problems were one of the reasons that AT&T Wireless put itself on sale.

USA Today recently did a story on the issue.  Accordingly, here’s five reasons to keep the sunset date on track (Feb 2008) and unshackle the wireless carriers:

(1) Rule is no longer applicable -

The analog rule was put in place when wireless was in its infancy and was predominantly a local operation. The rule was there so that consumers could roam and there was “ubiquitous” wireless. Today, wireless networks practically span the nation and there is nationwide roaming. Not to mention these networks allow for wireless broadband and multimedia applications.

(2) e911 -

A very small portion of wireless consumers still have analog phones. These phones do not provide Phase II e911 location capability. With an analog phone, you will have Phase I (cell site of origination) but that is not ideal in a rural environment (cell sites are spread and not dense like a metropolitan area).  Wireless consumers should have all the benefits of e911.

(3) spectrum efficiency -

Two ways to grow capacity – more spectrum & reuse the cells. The easiest way for a rural carrier to offer digital is to utilize some of the spectrum shackled for analog.

(4) levels the playing field -

Some carriers do not have analog networks operating. Sprint is PCS (1900 MHz) and T-Mobile have no legacy analog operations. Forcing Verizon Wireless, Cingular and rural carriers to keep these networks live is overburdensome.

(5) the cost to keep running -

Verizon Wireless and Cingular have about a million customers combined still on analog. As other carriers spend dollars on build-out and updating their networks – these carriers are stuck operating a network that is not spectrum efficient and few consumers are using.

Recent opposition to the analog sunset is coming from alarm carriers who have been selling analog alarm services. These companies have had five extra years to update their services. Americans spend more time on the move and demand more from the carriers that provide them services. Let’s unhook the analog anchor and unleash the full power of wireless.

dish disclosure – Our firm represents CTIA and supports the analog sunset date.