Nashville, TN – The world has evolved to a place in which mobile devices are an indispensable part of our daily lives. From using a mobile device to pay for a cup of coffee at Starbucks to paying monthly bills on a Smartphone, the wireless world is increasingly merging into the real world. But it’ll need some tinkering.
While this explosion of wireless technology has introduced a previously unrealized level of convenience for consumers, it has presented a significant difficulty to wireless carriers responsible for supporting the networks for customers’ mobile devices.
Yesterday, in his keynote address to the South Wireless Summit, Jonathan Adelstein, president and CEO of PCIA — The Wireless Infrastructure Association, said the imminent “data crunch” is for carriers. Using a number of statistics, Adelstein elucidated carriers’ growing challenge—data has increased twelve-fold from 2009 to 2014, and will increase by an estimated 700% in the next five years.
“With all that increase [in data], we think the industry must be unstoppable,” Adelstein said. “But are we really? A lot of us in this room are experiencing the increasingly tight margins that carriers are experiencing.” Continue Reading
As data usage has skyrocketed in the past decade, carriers’ margins have become compressed. Carriers spend more annually on infrastructure than any other industry in the United States — $35 billion per year.
“We need to address this wireless data crunch before it becomes a problem,” Adelstein said. “We can’t afford to miss out on a future that includes driverless cars and precision farming — we all know the next big thing is in data, and we do not want to miss out.”
Adelstein identified three “levers” that will enable the industry to address the data crunch — the addition of spectrum, increased efficiency of wireless technology and a diversified portfolio of wireless infrastructure.
While the first two levels are important, Adelstein said diversified infrastructure is the most effective means of solving the data crisis.
“From tall towers to DAS to WiFi … the densification of the network is publically poised to play the largest role of any of the three levers in the next five years,” he said.
The re-allocation and addition of spectrum is important, but is a process that can take many years, Adelstein noted. And while technological innovation—the movement from 4G to 5G, for example—will undoubtedly improve data efficiency, it is still years away from being fully developed and brought to market. But infrastructure, Adelstein said, “immediately addresses the data crunch as soon as it is built.”
Adelstein, a former FCC commissioner, said Washington and state governments’ help is vital in solving the data crunch.
“I used to work as a regulator so I know all too well the kind of trouble regulators can cause; I know firsthand,” he said. “But I also know that government can be very helpful if they are properly educated.”
And this is one of the most important roles he sees the PCIA playing within the industry—educating government officials and advocating for a regulatory environment that enables a more effective use of wireless data.
“Without sound governmental policies at the federal, state and local levels, the wireless industry won’t be able to address the data crunch,” Adelstein said bluntly.
Adelstein said he is encouraged by recent action taken by Congress and the FCC to help the industry move forward. Congress recently passed the MOBILE NOW Bill, which will ease the deployment of wireless infrastructure, and the FCC is holding a spectrum auction this month for carriers to expand their networks.
“It’s been wonderful to get policymakers to start to ask how can we help,” Adelstein said. “We need certainty—we need to have clear rules of the road.”