I'm writing today from the WCA International Conference in Washington, D.C. I must say, I'm impressed with the number of people here. This year's conference is entitled "Capitalizing on Wireless Broadband: The Time Is Now" and the buzz is generally one full of positive energy regarding the current and future prospects of wireless broadband deployment.
My day started in a rather long line at Registration. With the clock ticking down and a few colleagues in the press beginning to grumble about missing the kickoff address a helpful staff member ushered us journalists out of line and into the auditorium right in time to hear Peter Pitsch, Director of Marketing at Intel and the Chairman of the Voice on the Net Coalition introduce the morning's two speakers: Michael Gallagher, Acting NTIA Administrator and Assistant U.S. Secretary of Commerce and FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein.
The two discussed the various issues surrounding VoIP including regulation, which the Commissioner did not seem too enamored with. Both agreed that VoIP is in a position to revolutionize the telecomm industry, creating competition, helping businesses attain new levels of efficiency, creating innovative services and maybe even lowering costs for the consumer.
Regarding the role to be played by broadband wireless, Commissioner Adelstein said that "If VoIP becomes the standard way to use voice in the USA, then we need to make sure that there is enough broadband reaching into every corner of the USA to facilitate that." This theme merges with President Bush's recent call for universal affordable broadband by 2007.
Regulation will of course play a role in whether or not VoIP gets deployed more rapidly or languishes as a disruptive technology hampered by government interference.
According to Assistant Secretary Gallagher, "VoIP is intersecting with 100 years of regulation." We must be careful not to burden VoIP into becoming a "gray market" of telecom due to tax avoidance (current state and local taxes are in the neighborhood of 16%, and VoIP is capable of doing an end ruun around those taxes). "We must ensure that VoIP becomes a legitimate element of telecommunications.
All speakers generally agreed that a less intrusive government role would benefit the VoIP industry as a whole.
Also in the morning session, wireless pioneer Craig McCaw announced the formation of Clearwire, a new venture aimed at improving the consumer experience and overall availability of consumer broadband voice and data services.
"We come into this opportunity with our eyes open to the challenges and difficulties associated with competing against giants in the communications arena," said Clearwire Chairman and CEO Craig McCaw. "Yet, we have worked diligently to combine a team of people that have a track record for providing exceptional customer experiences in wireless that we believe can make a difference with a unique and powerful technology. Wireless technology can open the gate that has restricted widespread access to broadband services and provide a very simple and satisfying consumer experience."
The launch of Clearwire is a culmination of more than two years of activity that has included the acquisition of several companies and the accumulation of licensed spectrum in markets throughout the United States.
ALso, TMC has announced the creation of a new Conference focusing on WiMAX. The new event, called WiMAXcon, will be colocated with the successful Internet Telephony Conference & EXPO (www.itexpo.com) in Los Angeles this October. There is currently a call for papers out, soliciting speakers and topics for the new conference. If you are interested in speaking don't hesitate to check out the CFP online at www.tmcnet.com.
I'm looking forwrad to hearing from FCC Chairman Michael Powell tomorrow. Until then, it's back to the conference.