The new Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Tom Wheeler, might get a case of serious vertigo when he takes a look at the new infographic Mobile Future released today – The (R)evolution of Mobile – showing the dizzying growth in wireless marketplace that is greeting him when he shows up to his first day of work this week.
In just four short years since the previous chair, Julius Genachowski took office, the market shifts have been staggering. Mobile data usage has grown nearly ten times, and 56% of U.S. adults now own smartphones as opposed to the mere 20% who owned them in 2009. Four years ago, 4G LTE service was not available to consumers – this year, 21 wireless providers offer 4G LTE. And wireless is a boon for the US economy – not only has the app economy created 752,000 jobs since 2009, private sector wireless network investment has increased by 62% with $35 billion in investment in 2013 alone.
Clearly, consumers and our economy are embracing mobility and have become universally reliant on smart and connected mobile devices. With that consumer demand comes an obligation for responsible management of the scarce resource that forms the foundation of wireless networks: spectrum. The FCC must grapple with the challenge of ensuring that adequate spectrum capacity is available to fuel the ongoing, rapid expansion of the mobile Internet.
This is complex work, and the stakes could not be higher for every American with a mobile device (and that’s nearly all of us). Given the indispensable role played by wireless networks, here are five questions we think are critical for the new Chairman to consider as he takes the gavel.
1. Four years ago, terms like “app,” “tablet” and “4G LTE” were not part of wireless consumers’ vocabulary. How will the FCC ensure the U.S. government is an ally – and not an impediment — to the next generation of breakthroughs we can’t even imagine today that hold so much promise for our country, our community and our families – in healthcare, education, public safety, transportation, civic engagement, and so many other facets of our lives?
2. The mobile community is already responsible for millions of jobs, and wireless carriers alone have invested over $246 billion in infrastructure since 2001. What role can the FCC play in making sure that the American wireless innovation ecosystem will continue to be an engine of job creation, capital investment and economic growth?
3. Consumer demand for mobile connections is on the rise and new technologies are opening new doors for innovation and opportunity in the U.S. economy. What can the FCC do to help speed America’s seamless and necessary transition to advanced IP networks, while ensuring adequate spectrum is available to meet this exploding demand?
4. With so many new competitors entering the global wireless innovation marketplace, what must the FCC do to maintain American competitiveness and leadership in mobile?
5. The Internet of Things is considered the “next big thing” with as many as 3 billion networked devices in North America alone by 2017. Connected devices will aid us in every facet of life – from education and healthcare to energy and security. What will be the role of the U.S tech community in shaping this new global marketplace, and what can the FCC do to help it succeed?
With the addition of Chairman Wheeler and Commissioner Mike O’Rielly, the FCC finally is back to full strength and set to address critical issues that could impact a bright mobile future. American mobile citizens face an increasingly serious shortage of spectrum that must be addressed urgently. Open, inclusive auction processes, flexible secondary markets, investments in new technologies, and an “all of the above” approach to unleashing more spectrum resources, are all critical parts of the solution. But so is a recognition that our government – and our regulators — must try as best they can to be nimble and quick as the Mobile (R)evolution around us.