This article originally appeared in the Dec. 2011 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY.
Every few years the American people elect politicians who say one thing to get elected and do another once in office. Conflicts of interest, scandals related to campaign contributors, tax evasion and other related issues have made us numb, and political ethics is a phrase you may have just read now for the first time.
But of course politicians being politicians need to help the people – at least that is what they say they want to do. One of the latest focus areas is 4G – as in what exactly is it? My company, TMC (News - Alert), collaborates with Crossfire Media to put on a show about 4G called 4GWE (the next one is Feb. 1-3, 2012, in Miami), so this topic is of great importance to me.
In a recent story TMCnet’s TechZone360 site, there is a fascinating article that begins as follows: Today, Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Palo Alto (News - Alert)), top Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives' Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, applauded Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Senator Al Franken (D-MN) for introducing a Senate companion bill to the Next Generation Wireless Disclosure Act, which she introduced in the U.S. House in June.
The situation is as follows: The government wants a strict definition of what 4G is so consumers aren't duped into buying a service they believe to be fast only to find that it really isn't.
Of course anyone who knows anything about wireless signals knows that even a blazing fast service can be bogged down by flash mobs; over-subscription; obstructions; and, of course, weather and proximity to the tower. So if you promise a certain speed and there is a massive traffic jam in the area causing an extra 5,000 people to make calls, download songs and watch videos around the same time in a similar location, every subscriber will see performance levels fall off dramatically. And we are talking nationwide service here, where there could be over-subscription in any area at any time without notice.
This isn't that different than what happens with cable broadband. If you want lightning-fast service, wake up early on a weekday. Friday through Sunday nights are typically peak periods, meaning your performance will be lower than normal. There also typically is significant variation in the speed of hotel broadband, which can cost an arm and leg and yet still be slower than a dial-up connection.
It is worth noting that the wireless situation I have outlined above means the Senate and House can easily get experts to testify that wireless speeds of 4G networks are fairly slow. They can go to busy areas, do indoor trials, etc., to get whatever outcome they want. They can then give speeches about how big, evil phone companies are taking advantage of consumers and then pass laws to limit virtually everything they do.
So wireless carriers and industry, now is the time to come up with some simple guidelines related to average 4G speeds, and we need disclaimers relating to the issues in this post. The best way to keep the government from getting involved in and subsequently destroying our markets through unintended consequences is to act decisively and head them off now.
Expect this to be an important topic in Miami this February at 4GWE, an event co-located with ITEXPO.
Rich Tehrani is CEO and Group Editor-in-Chief of TMC. In addition, he is the Chairman of TMC’s ITEXPO (News - Alert), one of the world’s largest and best-attended communications and technology conferences. Rich has also developed a large and loyal readership for his own communications and technology blog.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi