Mobile Future

New Analysis Cautions Against Restrictive Wireless Rules

Consumer Experience and Public Interest at Risk if Engineers Lose Flexibility to Manage Mobile Networks

(Washington, DC) – Today, wireless network expert Peter Rysavy of Rysavy Research, in conjunction with Mobile Future, released a new paper “How Wireless is Different: Considerations for the Open Internet Rulemaking.” It details the unique technical and engineering challenges wireless network engineers face in keeping pace with surging consumer demand for mobile connectivity, and makes the case for a continued regulatory environment that allows flexible, nimble network management and operations.  The report concludes that given the special characteristics of wireless networks, and the implicit spectrum capacity challenges in which our mobile networks operate, any new regulatory mandate to treat all data packets equally would impede the work of network engineers in flexibly managing mobile traffic and congestion, while counter-productively complicating the safeguarding of open Internet principles.  Such a new mandate “does not make engineering sense, nor serve the public interest, and will almost certainly derail future transformative innovation while degrading U.S. consumers’ mobile experience,” according to Rysavy.

The analysis notes that even as wireless providers are investing historic levels of capital to address increasing consumer demand, including expanding and upgrading networks, harnessing small cells and offloading onto Wi-Fi, wireless networks remain inherently capacity-constrained when compared to fixed broadband networks.  As an example, the report notes that “all usable radio frequency spectrum, across thousands of licensees, has less than 10 percent of the capacity of a single fiber-optic cable.”

In documenting from an engineering perspective the fundamental technical and operational differences between wireless and wireline networks, the report concludes that “subjecting wireless broadband networks to rules that dictate how wired broadband networks are designed and operated would be a mistake.”

This report arrives as the FCC is considering additional regulations in its proposed rulemaking, “Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet.”

“Limiting or directing by government fiat the ways in which wireless network operators can respond to surges in demand for more capacity will undermine the user experience, impair quality of service and limit accessibility of hundreds of millions of wireless subscribers,” said Rysavy. “As importantly, such restrictions will delay the deployment of new next-generation technology, undermining the investment and innovation that are driving the mobile revolution and apps economy.”

Mobile Future Chair Jonathan Spalter noted the report’s significance is that it addresses these key issues from a data-driven and scientific engineering perspective, rather than from a legal or politically-driven approach.

“The strength and innovation of American wireless is due in no small part to the regulatory restraint that enables advancements in mobile technology and network infrastructure, and protects the open and dynamic Internet ecosystem we enjoy today” said Spalter. “Given inherent mobile broadband capacity constraints—and, just as important, the lack of a single real-world challenge since the FCC’s Open Internet order went into effect in 2010—the FCC has a compelling case for continuing its successful regulatory framework that keeps the wireless experience positive for consumers and our communities, safeguards our open Internet, and permits network engineers to stay one step ahead of the demand-versus-capacity challenge.”