In the debate over the availability of broadband and the underserved portions of our country, wireless does not seem to be an important variable. Yet, as CTIA reported, there are more wireless subscriptions than people in the U.S. (322,800,000 vs. 312,781,000) and more than half of those subscribers have smartphones. Interesting, some are using this number to insinuate that we have reached greater than 100% penetration of the wireless market. That would be incorrect. However, I struggled to find a report that allowed me to see what percentage of the US was now covered by either a 3G or 4G wireless system. This is important because most broadband initiatives are developed with the intent of providing access speeds to support web browsing and the delivery of video. In accordance with that goal, the FCC defines broadband as 4 Mbps for downloads and 1 Mbps for uploads. Consider that both 3G and 4G LTE systems can exceed this level of performance. In which case, wireless access should be the determining factor in whether an additional broadband investment is required to meet the FCC’s National Broadband Plan goals.
With the advent of smartphones, tablets, MiFi hotspots and LAN extenders, do we need to build out fiber infrastructure to support the broadband needs of the U.S.? The future is clearly wireless. Not only is the consumer moving to wireless over wireline but businesses are as well. In fact, this trend is growing at such a rate that even cable is now viewed as a wireless offering and its VoIP growth has stymied.
Therefore, if I can surf the web, access cloud applications and databases, stream video and communicate using a smartphone, tablet, MiFi hotspot or other device at a speed greater than 4 Mbps, then why doesn’t that quality as broadband access?
Enjoy Easter Sunday and have a great weekend. I’m not sure what I will be cooking this weekend, but it will be good.