Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

mHealth – The Genie in the Lamp

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

By Dawood Khan,

mHealth Summit, Washington DC

WASHINGTON, D.C. – mHealth – The mobile phone is Aladdin’s Lamp!

The mHealth sector is definitely in the initial phases of a hype cycle. It is rattled with endless point-solutions; thousands of apps, hundreds of wearable devices, no real idea of business models, a blatantly “patient un-centric” approach to mHealth, and unimpressive solutions showcased as the “latest mobile health technology” that would remind anyone in the mobile industry of 2006.

2006 was an era the mobile industry was full of point solutions, more content than anyone could find on carrier portals – a.k.a. walled gardens. The Blackberry was the pinnacle of a smart mobile device, an entirely un-centric user experience, and a business model that basically gauged consumers.

Then came Apple in 2007 and the mobile industry changed. Apple’s ingenious approach went far beyond technology in the iPhone. It came with a markedly consumer-centric approach from revolutionizing the content revenue-sharing business model, and an engaging end-user experience. Apple negotiated Digital Rights Management deals with record labels, content aggregators, and distributors. It allowed application developers to keep 70% of revenues. This was unheard of among Western MNOs, who kept 80% of application and content revenues, and controlled their portals.

In retrospect, Apple was the mobile industry’s genie.

Fast forward to 2013, and while anyone who has observed hype cycles in industries undergoing change can see that mHealth is all hype and little substance. At this time, there are some glimmers of hope, offering a potential to change the hype to hope.


Enter Mohammad Yunus – an unassuming, humble, simply dressed global change leader – A Nobel Prize winning inspiration for social change. Among many innovative ways of challenging social, business, and technology status quo, he established Garmeen Bank, acquired wireless spectrum and set up a cellular service provider in Bangladesh to serve the underserved. His target was the poorest women in the world. They were the “telephone ladies” – allowing villagers to make calls, conduct banking, etc.. He grew this to 400k “telephone ladies” within 5 years.

He dreamed of creating Aladdin’s lamp with a magic genie who would solve the problems of people – he believes the mobile phone to be that magic lamp with a digital genie – granting wishes, solving people’s problems, allowing them to make money to feed their family, access banking, and “dial a doctor”. In trying to achieve Bangladesh’s Millennium Development goals, Yunus has been working on addressing medical issues among the most vulnerable. Using mobile to offer “dial a doctor” service and even for portable ultrasounds. His current dream is to use the mobile phone as a portable Ultrasound device (instead of a tablet) with an ultrasound app that can be downloaded.

While applications exist for mobile eye scanning, ECG, and detecting certain types of cancer, his vision is that mobile collects info from the body in every way allowing machines to analyze trends over time and pre-emptively alert  you when there is a problem. In this way, diagnostics can be provided at a personal level without having to go to a doctor.

After this, speaker after speaker spoke of the best solution their company either enables or delivers. The challenge is that these solutions are all closed loop and not necessarily the best for consumers. In many cases, solutions don’t have a business model. Given the US centric crowd, the approach to funding was, as expected, US centric. And so, the discussions around what kind of business model will work still need to be thought through. In essence, what may work for a particular solution in one Country, will need to be totally reformed for another. Eventually, the players will sort things out.

mHealth – Will it Go Viral or End Up Bacterial?

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Monday, December 9, 2013

By Dawood Khan

mHealth Summit, Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In many ways, today was a day of juxtapositions.

While an impressive array of keynote speakers spoke about the incredible future as a result of innovative technologies and solutions, the audience of close to four thousand healthcare practitioners, entrepreneurs, vendors, service providers, regulators, sat patiently listening as the lights flickered at a state-of-the-art facility in Washington DC, experiencing electrical problems as a result of what many would consider a mild storm.

The mobile industry was revolutionized with the inception of the iPhone in 2007 and then Android in 2008 – the possibilities for healthcare from mobile are limitless. There are close to 6.6B mobile connections worldwide today according to the GSMA[1], and these are expected to exceed the human population shortly. According to the keynote speaker from Qualcomm, the Internet of Things (IOT) will be everywhere – even doorknobs can be made mobile. IOT is expected to generate revenues of $1.5T by 2017. The predictions on the number of connected devices vary between 25B and 50B connected devices by 2020 – admittedly a large window, but a difficult prediction to make.

The healthcare industry spends more than $6.5T globally on an annualized basis. An aging population with a growing need for chronic disease management represents roughly 860M patients worldwide. Some developed countries report spending close to 84% of healthcare spending on chronic disease management. A study for the NHS reported an almost 45% reduction in mortality from chronic diseases when telehealth was adopted[2].

The revenue predictions of the global mHealth market also vary. According to Transparency Market Research, the global mHealth market is expected to reach $10B in revenues by 2018, up from $1.3B in 2012 – representing a CAGR of 41.5% from 2012 to 2018. Majority of the revenues thus far have been from monitoring services contributing about 63% of the global mHealth market revenue in 2012[3]. According to research2guidance[4] the mHealth app market will reach $26B by 2017, with 50% of mobile users expected to download a health app by then. Today, majority of the apps have been lifestyle focused, with smaller, nimble app developers and innovators avoiding diagnostic apps as a result of regulatory concerns.

Speaking of regulation, the Food and Drug Association (FDA) in the US recently issued its final Mobile Medical Applications Guidance for the industry[5]. This is a first of a kind guidance. The FDA claims that innovation isn’t counter to patient safety, and has identified categories of devices to “focus only on the apps that present a greater risk to patients”. However, defining what “greater risk” is trickier than one would assume. So, a Food and Drug Administration Safety Innovation Act (FDASIA) Workgroup has been set up to provide expert input on issues identified by the FDA, Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to help develop a risk-based regulatory framework pertaining to health information technology including mobile medical applications. The framework promises to promote innovation, protect patient safety, and avoid regulatory duplication. The folks at HIMMS couldn’t wait for further regulatory guidance and have issued their roadmap version 2.0[6] for the adoption of mobile and mHealth devices. mHIMMS also launched its 3rd survey of mHealth today. Results of the previous survey indicate interest in consumer focused applications[7].

The CEA discussed its Wearable Devices Market Study[8], identifying that there is over a billion dollar industry of wearable fitness devices in the US by 2014, with products from companies such as Jawdrop, Bitfit. 75% of consumers who own devices are in the 18 – 34 years bracket. However, older more affluent shoppers also own fitness devices. Most purchase devices at brick-and-mortar sports stores rather than online – as consumers want to know how they feel. While price is the most compelling driver for selecting a wearable lifestyle device, battery life, form-fit and ability to keep them clean are important decision criteria for consumers.

So, why has mHealth been so slow to take off? Esther Dyson, the Chairman of HICCup likened these early days of mobile in healthcare to be like the late 80’s for Internet, when people thought it was very sleazy to put commercial traffic on the Internet, which was till then purely a research Network. “Mobile in healthcare is like that. But it is charging.” She said.

AOLs founder, Steve Case lamented that it took the Internet almost two decades to reach main stream, and mobile in health will also take time – especially as older and established stakeholders try to maintain status quo.

Major barrier to adoption of mHealth include the resistance by established Vendors and Providers of accepting new, unknown entrants with nascent, sometime unproven innovation. Clinician reimbursement models were also identified as a barrier for the US market.

Trust is a major concern. This can only be overcome through maturation of the mHealth Industry.  In terms of mPayments – how many people rip up the cheques after they deposit it? Only a handful, most hold onto it in case the deposit didn’t work well. It will take time for people to start trusting the app. As noted earlier, another challenge is that most firms want to stay out of the critical health care apps and stay in fitness and wellness to avoid being regulated.

Jordan Shlain, an MD and entrepreneur who founded HealthLoop – a startup focused on providing Clinicians the ability to follow-up with their patients digitally, put the situation of mobile in Healthcare well – “will mobile go viral?” he asked, and then responded “…like most things in health – I think it may end up going bacterial instead.”

Perhaps so – but only for the near term. I came to mHealth to see if the Healthcare industry was ready for the change, ready to move at a much faster pace, adopt innovation, and adapt its existing processes and regulation to meet the needs of a much faster moving Mobile Industry converging with a slow moving, established Healthcare Industry in. I am happy to report that I think that while we’re at the very early stages of the phenomenon, the trend is definitely irreversible. Exciting times ahead!

Is your enterprise looking for a mHealth strategy? Contact us at to receive a copy of the mobile enterprise strategy best practice paper for the Healthcare industry. You can also reach us to discuss how you can determine if your organization is ready to adopt mobile through use of our mobile readiness assessment.









The Wireless Industry – Here We Shrink Again!

Monday, July 15th, 2013

By Dawood Khan

Red Mobile Consulting, Toronto, Canada

TORONTO – Consolidation seems to be the global trend in the wireless carrier sector today. A combination of full or near-full market penetration rates; burgeoning consumer appetite for data services leading to pressure on spectrum; and the need for carriers to save costs in light of declining service revenues are all leading to the phenomenon. While acquisition activity is reducing the number of competitive players in the market, leading to better economies of scale and greater access to spectrum for carriers, regulators fear this resulting in increased pricing for consumers.

AT&T $1.2 billion bid for Leap Wireless’ 5 million pre-paid subscribers and PCS and AWS spectrum spanning 35 states is just the latest in a series of acquisition activity. T-Mobile, who recently acquired MetroPCS – competitor to Leap, is itself a potential target for takeover, with Sprint (anti-trust regulation permitting) pegged as a suitor.  This comes on the heels of Sprint’s recent acquisition of the remaining part of Clearwire, allowing it access to spectrum to offload broadband data, as Clearwire pursues deployment of its TD-LTE network.

According to the GSMA, recent consolidation activity in Ireland and Austria have given concern to regulators that these acquisitions not lead to reduced network investment or increase in consumer prices.

Canada has its own share of consolidation activity in the air, albeit at much smaller scale. Verizon’s potential entry into the Canadian market given recent rules allowing foreign firms to acquire Telcos with less than 10-percent market share, can lead to competitors Wind Mobile and Mobilicity coming under the Verizon umbrella. In the upcoming 700MHz spectrum auction, rules that favour new entrants which allow them to purchase twice as much spectrum at a fraction of the price will be in Verizon’s favour. Furthermore, the Canadian market is still growing. According to a Red Mobile Consulting report for Industry Canada – “Study of Future Demand for Radio Spectrum in Canada 2011-2015,” Canadian subscriptions are expected to grow from approximately 30 million to 35 million by 2015, leading to full market penetration.

Consolidation Now – What’s Next?

As carriers role out their LTE networks, the ability to actively share network assets including the base station, the radio front-ends, antennas can make the deployment of new networks much more economical and practical for carriers. In Canada, Bell and TELUS already share network access as part of a roaming arrangement, in addition to sharing towers and cell sites. Network sharing with LTE can enable carriers to provide access to customers of another carrier on that carrier’s spectrum through a common shared network.

Google TV Box

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Google, Intel and Sony have teamed to develop a platform called Google TV to bring the Web into the living room through a new generation of televisions and set-top boxes, reports the NY Times.

The Times says Google TV will use an Intel Atom processor on the set-top box, and run the Android operating system. The technology may also be built directly into Blu-ray players and TVs from Sony. Additionally, Google is working with Logitech to built a keyboard-equipped remote control for the platform.

Google is expected to deliver a toolkit to outside programmers within the next couple of months, and products based on the software could appear as soon as this summer.

The three companies have tapped Logitech, which specializes in remote controls and computer speakers, for peripheral devices, including a remote with a tiny keyboard.

Google TV may use a version of Google’s Chrome Web browser, says Android and Me. Android and Chrome OS are expected to merge over time. The default Android browser is based off the same WebKit core. Google recently teamed up with DISH to test a new, Android-like software on the satellite provider’s set-top box.

The partners envision technology that will make it as easy for TV users to navigate Web applications, like the Twitter social network and the Picasa photo site. The move is an effort by Google and Intel to extend their dominance of computing to television, while Sony would get a competitive edge on IP-TV. Cable operators are investing heavily in video on demand (VOD) as analog spectrum is freed up on their 750 MHz systems.

The Boxee Box by D-Link uses a dual-core ARM Cortex A9 CPU with an NVIDIA Tegra 2 for graphics.

It displays TV shows and movies from the Internet or your hard drive, on your television, as well as social media, email and telephony – no PC needed.

Google could have open source competition from settops running MeeGo. MeeGo combines Nokia’s Maemo and Intel’s Moblin and can run on both ARM and Atom chips.

The UK’s Virgin Media is beginning its transition to IPTV now, and aiming to serve roughly 13 million subscribers by 2012.

Virgin Media will offer 50 Mbps broadband in the UK for £28/month ($42/month). Virgin is using fibre to deliver internet access to just over half of all homes.

The Asia-Pacific IPTV market was around 9.4 million subscribers at the end of 2009, a 51 percent growth from last year’s 6.27 million subscribers, according to Frost & Sullivan.

US cable operators, like Comcast and Time-Warner Cable, which are also partners in Mobile WiMAX with Google and Intel, conceivably could extend the platform into the mobile space. But they’re likely to keep an eye on their backside.

Indian 3g/4g Auction: Qualcomm Bidding TD-LTE

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

India will begin 3G spectrum auctions on April 9, with a “4G” auction for LTE and WiMAX services beginning on April 11, reports the Indian Department of Communications.

India is the biggest economy in the world that doesn’t yet have nationwide 3G phone service. India’s wireless market, with about 525 million mobile subs (Dec 2009), is the world’s biggest after China, according to data from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.

The government’s 3G auction will offer three slots in 17 telecom service areas and four in the remaining five areas on April 9th.

The Department of Telecom on Friday said nine telecos have submitted their bids for the auction of 3G spectrum (auction guidelines). The bids will start at 35 billion rupees ($770 million) for a slot covering all the service areas, but analysts expect each winner to spend between $1 billion and $1.5 billion due to the huge demand for scarce spectrum and cut-throat competition.

India’s top three mobile operators Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications, and Vodafone Essar, separately said on Thursday they had submitted applications to bid for the 3G airwaves for all of India’s 22 telecoms zones.

Firms expected to bid for 3G spectrum in the 2.1 GHz band include; Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications, Vodafone Essar, Tata Teleservices, State-owned BSNL, and Etisalat DB India, a unit of UAE-based Emirates Telecommunication will vye for 3G spectrum.

India plans to auction two 20 MHz unpaired blocks at 2.3 GHz in each of the country’s 22 service areas for 4G (LTE or WiMAX) on April 9th. The base price for a pan-India spectrum slot is set at $386 million.

Qualcomm said on Wednesday that it is has filed an application to bid in India’s broadband wireless auction in the 2.3 GHz band. Qualcomm plans to use the TD-LTE standard in the world’s second most populous country. Qualcomm’s technology will support both TD-LTE and 3G/2G. A winning bid would turn Qualcomm into a joint venture partner. Qualcomm would find an Indian partner if it succeeds in the auction, as per telecommunications rules in India.

The WiMAX Forum says there is limited traction or market support for TD-LTE, although Qualcomm says China Mobile has adopted the standard, and plans to use in the same 2.3 GHz band.

Qualcomm is working with Huawei and Nokia Siemens Networks, to perform interoperability tests for dual-carrier HSPA+ and LTE. Among the many device manufacturers currently evaluating the new chipsets are Huawei, LG Electronics, Novatel Wireless, Sierra Wireless and ZTE.

Motorola hopes to use WiMAX in India, and is in talks with top cellular service providers for deployment. Motorola claims that it can offer 30 – 40 per cent cheaper solutions. Motorola has deployed over 38 WiMAX networks worldwide.

Motorola today announced the addition of a TD-LTE-Advanced capable 4Tx/8Rx radio head with MIMO to its 4G – WBR 700 Series LTE portfolio. While similar in size to a standard 2Tx/2Rx LTE, it enables advanced MIMO schemes including multi user (MU) MIMO and beam-forming. The WBR 700 TD-LTE 4Tx/8Rx with MIMO solution will be displayed in Motorola’s booth at International CTIA Wireless 2010.

Motorola’s LTE-Advanced capable WBR 700 Series is Motorola’s fourth generation OFDM solution and its second generation LTE platform. The eNodeB portfolio supports TD-LTE as well as FDD-LTE solutions.

Motorola has been selected by China Mobile as the primary TD-LTE solution partner to provide indoor coverage for all major pavilions at the World Expo 2010 Shanghai China, and will also integrate and launch the world’s first TD-LTE USB dongle that supports both 2.3GHz and 2.6GHz. Beceem, Sequans and Qualcomm have all announced TDD-LTE chips for clients.

Related Dailywireless articles include; India’s 3g/4G Auction: On the Move , India Sets 3G Auction Price Higher, WiMax: East Meets West, China Mobile: Slow TD-SCDMA Sales.

The $99 Tablet

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Marvell this week announced a mobile tablet based on its chips. Marvell says its Moby tablet prototype will cost $99 and feature 1080p full-HD and full Flash Internet support. The company says the Moby tablet could eliminate the need for students to buy and carry bound textbooks and an array of other tools.

Marvell says that it expects tablets based on this design to go on sale by the end of this year. It’s not talking about actual retail prices yet. Colby’s little netbook costs $85 with a 624MHz Marvell PXA303 processor & 2GB of flash storage. It runs Windows CE.

Android tablets are popping up all over and Marvel’s Armada chip is in multiple upcoming e-readers, including Plastic Logic’s Que, Spring Design’s Alex, and others.

An ARM executive predicts over 50 tablet PC devices will be launched globally by the end of the year. ARM architecture is used by chip makers Freescale, Marvell, NVIDIA, NXP (previously Philips), Qualcomm, ST Microelectronics, Texas Instruments and others.

Announcing the initiative this week during her keynote speech to the country’s leading publishers at the Future of Publishing conference in New York City, Marvell Co-founder Weili Dai said that the Moby tablet is a technology whose time had come. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the average cost of a single textbook for even secondary school students can range from $60 to $200. And textbook costs are going up.

Making an Opportunity Out of the Data Problem

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

As network congestion continues to dominate industry debate and discourse, Scott Cotter, Senior Director of Marketing at Novarra, discusses how mobile data optimisation solutions may offer an immediate answer to an ever-growing problem

NovarraScottCotter Now that the dust has settled on another Mobile World Congress, the industry is left to reflect on the key trends from this year’s event. Undoubtedly, applications took centre stage, with the prominence and success of the inaugural App Planet an indication of how fundamental the entire ecosystem views them to the future of the mobile industry.
If apps were the predominant theme of this year’s show, then the impending network data tsunami was certainly the key issue. This is not surprising: the rise in apps and Internet browsing – a direct result of the growth in Smartphone usage – combined with the surge in mobile broadband and the rising popularity of mobile social networking, has finally propelled mass-market adoption of Internet offerings and services on the mobile platform. AT&T recently reported that data traffic has increased 50-fold since the introduction of the iPhone, with 3% of Smartphones responsible for 40% of network traffic. Similarly, according to statistics from Vodafone, data traffic is now 2.5 times voice traffic. O2 recently reported that data traffic is doubling every four months.

Explosive growth
This explosive growth of mobile data usage is now overloading the operators’ networks to the point where their reliability and, crucially, quality of service is suffering. O2’s reported series of data outages towards the end of last year and AT&T’s capacity constraints in major metropolitan areas are high-profile examples of this. The industry has been so focused on driving mobile Internet use, it seems surprising that operators did not anticipate the strain which this would ultimately place on network capacity.
The roll-out of 4G and LTE technologies are touted as the solution, but there are two problems with this. Firstly, the examples of O2 and AT&T highlight the immediacy of the issue. Verizon Wireless went on record earlier this month to state that its first 4G-ready handsets would not be ready until mid-2011, while Telefonica was, until recently, only piloting its 4G network. Secondly, regardless of the timeline for roll-out, new spectrum acquisitions and the deployment of additional base stations are no longer sufficient or economically sustainable to meet shifting usage patterns and ever-growing subscriber demand.
As an example, Cisco is predicting that by 2013, video – much more bandwidth hungry than today’s typical apps and mobile web – will comprise 64% of data traffic. This highlights how data traffic will continue to grow faster than the capacity growth afforded by new technologies such as LTE. Simply put, we should learn from the 2.5G – 3G transition that we can expect data consumption to grow rapidly and fill the capacity of the pipe.

Effective options
While there is no one single solution to the problem, there are immediately-available and effective options outside of infrastructure investments for operators looking to capitalise on the revenue opportunities presented by mobile apps and the mobile Internet.
One such route is through mobile data optimisation solutions, which offer financial benefits for the operator, while simultaneously enhancing the end-user experience. Such solutions use content transformation, compression and network layer efficiency improvements to enable operators to deliver double or triple the amount of data using their existing radio access network (RAN) and backhaul network. Recent data from a third party study commissioned by Novarra demonstrates that one operator in a developed market reduced over-the-air payload from 31.7 TB (terabytes) to 4.18 TB per month across its mobile Internet user population.
The Novarra study further quantifies the financial benefits for operators who implement data optimisation techniques to address network traffic growth. Operators of HSPA networks can extend time to capacity depletion from just 12 months to 30 months. LTE network operators can service more than twice as many subscribers with the same build-out of cell sites. Aside from providing an immediate solution to the growing bandwidth crunch, these immediate savings are critical in the current economic environment.

Data optimisation

The industry is just starting to recognise that there are viable and immediately- available options, aside from network offload and costly network build-outs, which can serve as effective antidotes to the network malaise. Resolving the issue of congestion will require the deployment of a variety of techniques – mobile data optimisation is at the top of the list for immediacy and return on investment. As all-you-can-eat data plans give way to tiered offerings or peak hour restrictions, consumers will appreciate the ability to get reliable, high quality mobile web and multimedia services as a result of data optimisation. At the same time, operators will lower opex costs and defer network investments to improve the bottom line and continue down the path of stemming voice ARPU decline with profitable data services.

To access presentations related to HSPA optimisation click here >>

Report Examines US mHealth Market

Monday, March 22nd, 2010
CSMG, the strategy division of TMNG Global, which provides professional services, products and services to the communications, media and entertainment industries, has released a report on the state of the US mobile health (mHealth) market. According to the report, ‘mHealth: Taking the Pulse’, finds that while the mHealth market presents significant growth opportunities, when taking into account device, software, connectivity and overall service revenue streams, the market and ecosystem are fragmented, creating challenges for any single player to address the full breadth of opportunities.
"mHealth is well positioned to address the needs and evolution of the US health care delivery because it provides cost-efficient care delivery and increases access to quality health care," says TMNG Global Chairman and CEO, Rich Nespola. "The proliferation of embedded wireless connected devices and Smartphone growth creates significant transformational opportunities to deliver cost-effective and viable mobile health care options. However, broader reform of the health care industry structure is needed to reach the full potential for integrating mHealth into the US health care delivery system."
The report finds that the mHealth market will reach an estimated $4.6 billion (£3.1 billion) opportunity by 2014, but will be fragmented across many solutions and device types. mHealth is already a significant market ($1.5B in estimated 2009 revenue including fixed telemedicine solutions), and is expected to grow over the next five years at a 25% CAGR (compound annual growth rate). If certain broad health care reforms are instituted, such as pay-for-performance, CSMG believes that adoption could accelerate.
The company outlines seven key mHealth technology opportunities that comprise the market, including monitoring; personal emergency response services (PERS); telemedicine; mobile medical equipment; mobile health information; RFID tracking; and health/fitness software.
According to CSMG, four key drivers will influence the pace and direction of mHealth evolution. Firstly, mobile/connected device technology innovation will drive near-to-mid-term growth. Secondly, the appeal of mHealth will overcome short-term barriers on consumer concerns about the quality of mHealth solutions. Thirdly, health care-specific technology developments such as adoption of electronic medical record (EMR) will remove barriers to mHealth adoption. And finally, broader health care industry reform will be required to reach the full market potential.
The report is based on interviews with key stakeholders in the mobile health ecosystem, including wireless service providers, health care software and hardware specialists, insurance providers, hospital systems and physician practices, as well as qualitative and quantitative strategic analysis of emerging trends and its impact on the mHealth market.
You can see the full report here.

FCC unveils broadband plan, but challenges lie ahead

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

WASHINGTON–The FCC today formally unveiled and delivered to Congress its national broadband plan, which calls for increasing wireless spectrum for mobile broadband as part of a much broader and complex effort to expand high-speed Internet access across the nation. 

From left to right FCC Commissioners Mignon Clyburn, Michael Copps, Julius Genachowski, Robert McDowell and Meredith Attwell-Baker unveil the agency’s national broadband plan.Many pieces of the 360-page plan have been previewed over the past several weeks by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski as the commission sought to gauge reaction to its proposals, some of which will require action and funding from Congress. The FCC’s staff said the plan is revenue neutral, based upon revenue projections from spectrum auctions.

Blair Levin, the former Stifel Nicolaus analyst and FCC official who served as the head of the commission’s broadband task force, told commissioners that the plan is fluid. “This plan is in beta and always will be,” he said, but noted that “evaluation is no excuse for paralysis.” The commission has been developing the plan for a year, holding workshops and receiving input from industry, public policy experts and citizens.

The centerpiece of the wireless portion of the plan calls for freeing up 500 MHz of new spectrum for mobile broadband in the next 10 years, of which 300 MHz between 225 MHz and 3.7 GHz should be made available within five years. The FCC reiterated the importance of scoring more airwaves for wireless.

“If the U.S. does not address this situation promptly, scarcity of mobile broadband could mean higher prices, poor service quality, an inability for the U.S. to compete internationally, depressed demand and, ultimately, a drag on innovation,” the plan states. The plan also argues for the need “to address other potential network bottlenecks that inhibit speed, including backhaul and other point-to-point applications.”

The FCC said a key element of freeing up spectrum would be to score 120 MHz from TV broadcasters. Under the plan, broadcasters would voluntarily exchange their spectrum for a share in the resulting revenues from the auction of that spectrum, an action Congress would have to authorize. “The voluntary, market-based reallocation should be implemented in a way that will have limited long-term impact on consumers overall, broadcast business models and the public interest, including the FCC’s goals with respect to competition, diversity and localism,” the plan states. “Moreover, the substantial benefits of more widespread and robust broadband services would outweigh any impact from reallocation of spectrum from broadcast TV.”

However, the FCC acknowledged possible alternatives. If the agency does not get authorization for such auctions, or if the auctions do not produce enough spectrum, the plan calls for the FCC to look for alternatives including a “transition to a cellular architecture on a voluntary or involuntary basis.”

Not surprisingly, wireless industry trade group CTIA said it is “extremely pleased” with the broadband plan’s call for more spectrum. However, the National Association of Broadcasters seemed less so.

“We are concerned by reports today that suggest many aspects of the plan may in fact not be as voluntary as originally promised,” the NAB said in a statement. “Moreover, as the nation’s only communications service that is free, local and ubiquitous, we would oppose any attempt to impose onerous new spectrum fees on broadcasters.”

The FCC said additional airwaves for mobile broadband also could come from Mobile Satellite Service, AWS and WCS spectrum bands.

Another major element of the FCC’s plan involves building a nationwide, interoperable, broadband wireless network for public safety–a reaction by the agency to communications troubles among first responders during the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina. The FCC’s plan calls for a re-auction of the D Block of the 700 MHz band, and for Congress to allocate $12 billion to $16 billion over the next 10 years to help build out a network using the D Block.

The D-Block commercial licensee or licensees will have to use a nationally standardized air interface, possibly LTE. The FCC also said “authorized state, local and federal public-safety users to have rights to roaming and priority access for broadband service on commercial networks subject to compensation.” D-Block licensees must also develop and offer devices that work both on the D Block and the neighboring public-safety broadband spectrum block. Finally, the D Block licensee or licensees “should be subject to commercially reasonable buildout requirements.” The commission “should also consider the use of incentives to promote additional deployment by the D Block licensee(s) for the benefit of rural citizens and for public-safety agencies.”

FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, one of the agency’s two Republican members, praised the work of the broadband task force. “Today marks the beginning of a long process, not the end of one,” he said. McDowell noted that there are some aspects of the plan that are troubling to him, including the idea that broadband could be reclassified as a telecommunications service, which would give the FCC greater authority to regulate wired and wireless networks. He also said the commission’s net neutrality proceeding–which is not specifically addressed in the plan, and which he sees as unnecessary–cast a shadow over the effort.

Genachowski said the stakes for the commission are high, and that the plan places an “enormous responsibility” on the FCC, adding, “We must act and we will act with an urgency that meets the moment.”

For more:
– see the FCC’s full national broadband plan (PDF)

Related Articles:
FCC upbeat about spectrum auction plan
FCC considering spectrum for free wireless broadband
FCC plan calls for 500 MHz of new spectrum for wireless
FCC details national broadband plan priorities

The National Broadband Plan

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

“Electricity is a modern necessity of life and ought to be found in every village, every home, and every farm in every part of the United States”.
Franklin Roosevelt, 1938

The FCC has released its full National Broadband Plan (Executive Summary and pdf), a road map for bringing broadband to nearly all Americans.

The National Broadband Plan envisions bringing 100-megabit-per-second access to 100 million homes by 2020, as well as 1 gigabit-per-second connections to libraries and schools. It outlines dozens of policy recommendations aimed at raising broadband penetrations from the current 65 percent to 90 percent, over the next decade.

The FCC’s task force, headed by Blair Levin, has been working on the report for nearly a year, and presented its 360-page report to the FCC commissioners today. It will deliver the report to Congress tomorrow.

The plan could cost as much as $350 billion to implement. Big line items include $9 billion to bring broadband to rural homes and $12 billion to $15 billion to build a national 700 MHz public service network. The joint public/private network would be partially funded by a 700 MHz auction of the 10 MHz, “D Block”. APCO wanted the feds to give them all of that spectrum. Much of the other revenue would also come from auctioning spectrum. The final mix of tax dollars versus investment by private industry is not yet known.

The Universal Service Fund would be expanded to include broadband as well as voice service, using the current $8 billion funding. That revenue comes from consumers through long-distance phone fees.

The proposal drew praise from some industry leaders and public interest groups, who said the plan could introduce more competition into the market for broadband services and help bridge a digital divide.

Major providers, such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon Communications, would gain broader subscriber bases, but they could be forced to share their wireless and fixed-wire networks with smaller rivals. The plan asks broadcasters to give up current airwaves for wireless broadband.

AT&T, Verizon, Sprint Nextel, Comcast, CTIA, NAB, APCO and the Satellite Industry Association have weighed in on the Broadband Plan.

“I truly don’t visualize a scenario where proceeds [from a sale] would exceed lost business opportunities,” said Paul Karpowicz, president of Meredith Broadcasting, in an interview with BusinessWeek.

Analysts and telecommunications scholars said carrying out the dozens of recommendations will be difficult, particularly if companies argue that new regulations will hurt investments and jobs.

The plan recommends that the country adopt Six Long-Term Goals over the next decade:

  • At least 100 million U.S. homes should have affordable access to actual download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second and actual upload speeds of at least 50 megabits per second.
  • The United States should lead the world in mobile innovation, with the fastest and most extensive wireless networks of any nation.
  • Every American should have affordable access to robust broadband service, and the means and skills to subscribe if they so choose.
  • Every community should have affordable access to at least 1 Gbps broadband service to anchor institutions such as schools, hospitals and government buildings.
  • To ensure the safety of Americans, every first responder should have access to a nationwide public safety wireless network.
  • To ensure that America leads in the clean energy economy, every American should be able to use broadband to track and manage their real-time energy consumption.

The report recommends the FCC make 300 megahertz available for mobile use within 5 years. Those frequencies would be between 225 MHz and 3.7 GHz.

  • 300MHz of spectrum should become available within the next five years, with 500MHz available within 10 years for licensed and unlicensed use.
  • About 120MHz of spectrum from TV broadcasters. They hope TV broadcasters will voluntarily give up a good portion of the spectrum with financial incentives
  • Make 20 megahertz available in the 2.3 GHz (WCS) band, while protecting neighboring federal, Aeronautical (AMT) and satellite radio operations.
  • Auction 10 megahertz Upper 700 MHz D Block for commercial use that is technically compatible with public safety broadband services.
  • Make up to 60 megahertz available by auctioning Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) bands, including, if possible, 20 megahertz from federal allocations.
  • Accelerate terrestrial deployment in 90 megahertz of Mobile Satellite Spectrum (MSS).

The FCC adopted rules in February 2003 that allow MSS operators to construct and operate Ancillary Terrestrial Components (ATCs) in their licensed spectrum. Although satellites permit nationwide coverage, satellite links are limited without line-of-sight transmission, particularly in urban areas and inside buildings. The ATC rules allow MSS providers to deploy terrestrial networks to enhance coverage in areas where the satellite signal is attenuated or unavailable.

The agency would also seek up to $16 billion from lawmakers to build and operate a dedicated network for public safety responders in the 700 MHz band. The agency said it could raise more money from auctioning the spectrum intended for wireless use.

It recommends the FCC free up a new, contiguous nationwide band for unlicensed use (but it doesn’t say where it should get the spectrum). It should make a sufficient portion available for use exclusively or predominantly by unlicensed devices, as it acquires spectrum.

The FCC, the Obama administration, and Congress will now be tasked with taking action on the recommendations on the National Broadband Plan.

More coverage on the National Broadband Plan is available at; Ars Technica, Computer World, C-Span, DSL Reports, Urgent Communications, Washington Post, WSJ and ZD Net.

Related Dailywireless articles include; Free Internet Access Proposed by FCC, National Broadband Plan Previewed, D-Block: It’s Done; Congress Pays, FCC “Finds” 500MHz?, FCC Floats “100 Squared” Initiative, FCC to Auction TV Airwaves?, Google: Fiber to the Home?, Smart Grids, Spectrum in Budget, White Spaces Heating Up