Smart Cars. Smart Homes. Smart Spectrum Policy?


The buzz at AT&Ts developer Summit – and its sure to continue at CES – is about wireless devices, and not the kind that can fit in your pocket or briefcase.  Automakers are experimenting with wireless in vehicles, and connected homes may actually materialize in the next few years with services like AT&T’s Digital Life and Comcast’s XFINITY Home.

Cars are being connected wirelessly not just for basic security, but to provide full entertainment services and changing what you can do in your car.  AT&T and partners are working to make your car more like a personal assistant with technology integrated throughout your daily routine.  For example, Got My Stuff allows you to tag belongings with RFID readers and the car can detect if you have left home without things you need for the day.  With wireless connectivity these devices can receive software updates regularly and conveniently for the user – you don’t need a CD to up date the maps in your car’s gps system.

The ability to connect devices wirelessly fundamentally changes the way we do business. It changes the parameters of what is possible.  Transitioning to a fully IP world that communicates primarily through wireless networks, is also cheaper than analog networks so businesses can be more efficient and infrastructure companies have more capital to reinvest in their networks.  In terms of wireless communication all of AT&T’s customers will be moved to the 4G LTE networks by the end of 2016.

Migrating to full digital communications and away from analog connections raises regulatory questions.  For example, the standards for SMS, and connecting to 911 will be different.  However, these questions are pointless if companies lack the needed spectrum to transition.

There are so many innovative things that can be done with wireless technology, but with limited available spectrum how can we expect these devices to run efficiently and in a way that consumers can enjoy?  AT&T’s data traffic has already increased 20,000% in the last five years thanks to the smart phone revolution.

Major wireless companies have worked to enhance how data travels wirelessly to optimize data transfer, but with millions more devices connecting over the air, no matter how good the standards for transmitting data are, its going to take more spectrum to keep moving forward.

Congress and the FCC need to act quickly to release valuable spectrum to encourage a flourishing technology sector.  With more spectrum available wireless broadband will not only deliver enhanced services over more platforms and devices, it will increase competition in terms of broad band connectivity.  If the FCC and Congress are actually concerned with the public good and competition in the broadband sphere they, will release more spectrum and have open auctions that don’t exclude companies capable of meeting consumer needs.