As the technical tectonic plates in the US and the EU begin to collide how can we ensure we stay ahead of The Game and do not get squashed by the collision? A difficult question? Not if we focus on the key players, the arguments unfolding and retain hope. First let us offer congrats to Ajit Pai (nominated) as the Chairman of the FCC, Wilbur Ross (confirmed) at the DoC and his nominee for the vacant NTIA leadership seat. Unfortunately the tragedy unfolding in the UK came into sharp focus within the February issue of Electronics World, which brought to our attention a classic exposition of the woeful self-indulgent neo-Luddite leadership we have to endure in the UK: it relates to Prof William Webb of course.
This EW piece came on the back of an interview Webb gave to the FT (20th December), entitled "5G ambitions risk getting ahead of demand". Wherein along with Prof Rahim Tafazolli of Surrey both are advocating similar sentiments. Likewise, as with Boris Johnson, Webb is also out to plug his new book: "The 5G Myth". So when did Webb find the time to write this work of fiction? Webb should ask an entrepreneur, economist or political scientist how "demands" from people are created or is it simply a case that they want to hold the world up until they themselves can supply the demand?
The US and UK Competing Visions
First though I shall note Commissioner O'Reilly comment's before the Senate (8th March):
"Having just returned from the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, I will share with you that a handful of my conversations with international representatives suggest increased concern that international governments, via different forums, continue to seek a greater role in Internet oversight and policy setting. That should be viewed as deeply troubling by all individuals that support and believe in an Internet relatively free from government control, and particularly by this Committee given its work to try to prevent ICANN from abusing its role post IANA conversion. I believe that the possible expansion of governmental interference in Internet governance and activities remains one of the greatest threats to its long-term sustainability and growth."Indeed! A big thank you to Michael for his timely alert on the continuing threat to the Open Internet.
Ajit is a known quantity to us as he seeks another 5-year term. Personally I have not always been on the same page regarding Net Neutrality but Ajit's heart is with us on an Open Internet. Here, I would refer the reader to the "Open Internet and Net Neutrality" subsection of the "Leaders and Followers - The Consequences of Binary Thinking" Blog, April 2015, regarding the tale of two Fact Sheets. Foreshadowing the Alternative Facts issue prevalent today? Perhaps, but despite Ajit's misgivings on Net Neutrality, Ajit, won't really roll it back for the reasons cited by Tom Wheeler. Instead Ajit has begun his chairmanship by seeking to stay aspects of last years Broadband Privacy Rule (before he places his own seal of approval). He is also seeking to "liberate" Free Data Offerings and reclassifying operators with less than 250,000 Internet connections in the interest of encouraging innovation, oh, and issued a Next Generation TV Ruling (ATSC 3.0) plus making progress on Real Time Text (RTT). All are matters for closer inspection another time. Instead we shall stay on the 5G landscape page.
Despite also Ajit's misgivings on former Chairman Tom Wheeler's approach to LTE-U, on the 22nd February gave his blessing by issuing the following statement on the FCC's first authorization of LTE-U devices:
"Today, the Commission announced authorization of the first-ever LTE-U (LTE for unlicensed) devices in the 5 GHz band. This is a significant advance in wireless innovation and a big win for wireless consumers. LTE-U allows wireless providers to deliver mobile data traffic using unlicensed spectrum while sharing the road, so to speak, with Wi-Fi. The excellent staff of the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology has certified that the LTE-U devices being approved today are in compliance with FCC rules. And voluntary industry testing has demonstrated that both these devices and WiFi operations can co-exist in the 5 GHz band. This heralds a technical breakthrough in the many shared uses of this spectrum. This is a great deal for wireless consumers, too. It means they get to enjoy the best of both worlds: a more robust, seamless experience when their devices are using cellular networks and the continued enjoyment of Wi-Fi, one of the most creative uses of spectrum in history. I remain committed to ensuring a competitive and vibrant unlicensed ecosystem that fosters innovation and promotes the efficient use of spectrum. Today's announcement, enabled by cooperation among private actors and collaboration with the public sector, reflects that commitment."
Therein lies the US technical policy case against Webb. This is not a trial it is a roll out. Of course the FCC is blessed with Continuity of Purpose. What is this LTE-U device and who set the technical standard behind it? Rhetorical question. Under FCC Part 15 Rules, it is being installed on Ericcson and Nokia base stations, and it appears T-Mobile will be the first operational carrier in the US this spring - spring 2017 that is - this year. Whether T-Mobile avoid the strategic error Vodafone made and are acquired by SoftBank is another matter. Alleged it was invented by Qualcomm but I shall not get diverted into the contentious US WiFi wars here.
Demonstrably Ajit quite simply has no intention of surrendering FCC technical superiority and leadership to the ilk of the Webb neo-Luddites. For Luddites they are indeed. Instead I anticipate Ajit's focus shall be inclined towards network consolidation, both horizontal and vertical, and 5G proliferation into all aspects of mobile healthcare, autonomous vehicles and AI.
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