How cool is it that the President of the United States talks about firefighters downloading stuff to handhelds, students taking classes with a digital textbooks or patients having face-to-face video chats with doctors?
President Barack Obama’s address Tuesday night marked the first time that I can recall technology being much of a topic at all, much less wireless, in a State of the Union. But when I heard the President say the government will make it possible for businesses to deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98 percent of all Americans, my initial thought was “Good luck with that.” Granted, it was a trite response, but it seems like this concept has been around for years with very few results. In fact, I think I know someone in rural southern Minnesota who still can’t get wired or wireless high-speed broadband.
So it was enlightening yesterday to talk to author and broadband consultant Craig Settles, founder of www.successful.com, about the role broadband can play in the nation’s economic recovery. Some of you may remember him from Metricom, which marketed the Ricochet wireless Internet service. Settles has been following the national broadband stimulus plan and associated issues far more than I have, and as he will be the first to admit, if you take your eye off that ball for even a second, you’re hosed.
That the President of the United States even mentioned the importance of broadband in his State of the Union is a big win, Settles points out. Even if the speech did not give a lot of details about how this is going to get done, well, hopefully those details will come. For now, be glad mobile broadband was given a few words on a huge national/international stage and linked to economic development.
Where Settles has an issue is putting the whole broadband initiative on the back of wireless. In his eyes, to think mobile broadband can do it all is just wrong. Yes, it’s usually portrayed as the fastest and cheapest way to get broadband to the masses – like hard-to-reach rural areas and what we used to call the wireless local loop – but it’s not the be all to end all. (I was a bit taken aback by this notion because I’ve been brain-washed all these years to believe that wireless is the logical way to get to these places.)
But he argues that due to physics and the types of things people want to do with broadband, wireless can’t do it all. Even LTE speeds are below what economic development professionals say communities will need to move massive amounts of data between businesses, industries, customers. Wired will need to be in the mix, and probably hybrid solutions too. It’s kind of like the argument for satellites – sounds good, but there are physics and limitations to it. You can only move so much data through a wireless network.
What do you think? Is wireless capable of doing it all, considering the rate at which this industry makes technology leaps and bounds, or is it more realistic to say communities will need a mix of wired and wireless – and possibly more wired than wireless?
Filed Under: Industry regulations