Black Friday’s Mobile Milestone

December 2, 2009

Last Friday ushered in the holiday shopping season, and while
consumers were clamoring for the best bargain, this year they had a new
tool in their artillery – their cell phone.

With an array of smartphone choices from the Palm Pre to the iPhone,
several new Blackberry models, and the Droid – never before have
Americans had so many options at their disposal. That’s not to mention
the proliferation of retail m-commerce sites, and applications that can
help you navigate stores, compare prices and even send coupons straight to your mobile phone. For customers, cell phones have become the ultimate aid in savvy shopping.

The Wall Street Journal reported that on Black Friday, "mobile online payments through PayPal surged 650%" and mobile searches grew to 200,000 from around 5,000 in 2008.
This is good news for retailers, but more importantly it signals that
2009 is likely to be seen as a tipping point for the mobile web.

Today, nearly 40 percent of new phone sales are smartphones, a
figure that will surely rise with the current holiday promotions. And a
recent report projects that by 2011 a majority of phones in the U.S.
will be connected smartphones that put PC-like functionalities in the palm of your hand.

What’s driving this growth is a fundamental shift in how we use our wireless devices.
According to a recent survey of nearly 1,000 phone users:

"[S]martphone users are no longer just reading e-mail or
scheduling appointments but also surfing the Web, streaming video and
music, downloading games, and snapping pictures. Smartphones are now
seen more by consumers as minicomputers than as cell phones."

This is a giant step forward for U.S. connectivity and greatly
beneficial to American consumers, but it also raises key questions for
federal policymakers.

With the surge in smartphone adoption and mobile web usage, wireless data traffic in North America is expected to double every year between 2008 and 2013.
If this forecast holds true, it means that we are facing what FCC
Chairman Julius Genachowski calls a ‘looming spectrum crisis.’ The FCC
needs to take action by opening up new wireless spectrum. Thankfully,
Chairman Genachowski recognizes this challenge and is taking steps to
address it.

However, as we witnessed with the last auctions, the path to
spectrum allocation can be a lengthy and bureaucratic process, and
consumers also need more immediate solutions. Wireless network
management helps ensure as seamless a consumer experience as possible,
no matter how busy the wireless networks become. As we seek solutions
to address exponentially increasing mobile usage, we should keep in
mind the constructive policies and engineering practices that made this
growth possible in the first place.

As evidenced this Black Friday, wireless innovation is working for
America. When considering policy changes, the FCC must first do no
harm. Government policies should support mobile’s still-nascent
potential and growth, but consumer choices and mobile innovation should
guide wireless’ bright future.

This article was originally posted on Huffington Post.