Wireless 101Friday, October 23, 2009
We have been holding our Wireless Universities for sixteen years now, starting the first year of the CTIA Wireless APP show (now Wireless I.T. & Entertainment) in Las Vegas and held the day before every CTIA show since. We have also held this course in Canada for a major network company, in China, in Japan,and for many companies within the United States. The program started out being called the "Wireless Data University" and as time passed and wireless data became a larger part of wireless, we changed the name several times and it is now the "Andrew Seybold Wireless University." Over this time, we have "graduated" more than 5,000 attendees. Still a full-day course, we start in the morning with technology, where we have been, and where we are going. Then in the afternoon, we switch gears and discuss operating systems and content.
I bring this up because now looks like the right time to put together a Wireless 101 course for the many who don't understand wireless at all, or who believe that wired and wireless systems have the same attributes so the same uses and rules should apply. Much of the debate about Net Neutrality, how many network operators should compete with each other, and how to solve first responder communications problems are being engaged in by people who are not educated about the differences between wired and wireless and do not understand that these differences call for different solutions.
If we put together such a course, I wonder whether we could get congressional staffers whose bosses will be making the decisions, and perhaps even FCC Commission staffers, to attend. I don't think we could expect them to sit through a full 8-hour course, but it certainly would be possible to put together a half-day session that could be offered several times for scheduling convenience and perhaps even videotaped or streamed and stored on the Internet.
It would be great to have this type of course hosted both in Washington DC and in Silicon Valley. I keep hearing it said that Washington folks and wireless network operators need to come to Silicon Valley to understand where the real technology advances are being made. If more Silicon Valley types understood wireless, perhaps their technology advances could be better geared for both the wired and wireless worlds.
Three or four hours is not a lot of time in which to convey the nuances of wireless services-voice, text, MMS, and data services-but it is enough time to present a general overview so attendees will leave with an understanding of the complexities of the various technologies, the resources that need to be deployed for them to work, the issues with gaining approvals for deployments in various cities and counties, and the differences between the wired and wireless Internet. If nothing else, they should come away with an understanding that wired access to the Internet, and the Internet itself, is about DATA services exclusively (VoIP is data), while wireless networks are about many different forms of communications in addition to data, INCLUDING access to the Internet.
One section I might include would be called "The Killer Applications" and it would make the point that the real killer application for the Internet is ACCESS, either wired or wireless, and that once we have access, everyone has a different killer application. To guarantee open and fair access to content or use of the Internet as a pipe to tunnel back to our corporate data services, these pipes must be managed at some level.
Though I can think of many more things I would like to include in this course, with real-life examples and perhaps discussions between those with different views, my goal would be simple. I would help educate those who will be making the decisions about how to handle issues surrounding wired and wireless, fiber and spectrum bandwidth, and fixed demand for services that can be pre-managed, to demand for services that can materialize anywhere on a wireless network at any time of day or night.
Congress and the FCC need to make some significant decisions over the next year or two. If their staff members have a better understanding of the differences between wired and wireless, they will be able to offer advice based on fact and data-which is what the FCC Chairman has said he wants-rather than on what is provided by influence peddlers who are only looking out for "their side." In reality, there should be no sides in this debate. There should be a mutual understanding that wired and wireless systems make up our communications networks and both will continue to play an important role into the future. There should also be an understanding that wired and wireless systems are different and the differences need to be understood before rules are applied.
These are just a few thoughts about what I would like to do. Over the past 16 years, we have become known for rendering technology understandable to non-technologists. While these sessions would not be about making experts out of anyone, they would impart important knowledge about the differences in the types of resources available to each type of service provider and future decisions would be better informed.
Andrew M. Seybold