Thursday, December 23, 2004


Lessons from cell phone policy

Back in the Reagan era, U.S. policy was to "let the market decide" which mobile radio technology was best . . . This CNN article says
An estimated 57 percent of the U.S. population chats on wireless phones -- not much greater than the percentage of wireless phone users in much poorer Jamaica, where 54 percent of the people have mobile phones, according to the International Telecommunications Union.

By comparison, in Hong Kong there are 105.75 mobile subscribers for every 100 inhabitants. In Taiwan, there are 110.

Why? The reasons range from credit checks to network quality to coverage areas.

Wireless networks elsewhere are simply better than those in the United States, said Albert Lin, an analyst at American Technology Research.

"For a long time, the U.S. had way too many networks being supported by not enough investment," he said. "The quality of U.S. networks is only now coming close to the quality you would see in major European and Asian markets."

Not that the European model was perfect: Companies there paid $125 billion for licenses to operate "third-generation" mobile networks that enable European users to zap videos and data by phone. The result: Mountains of debt, but a chance to sell phones packed with features James Bond would love.
Hmmm. Too many networks, not enough investment. The same thing seems to be happening in U.S. broadband policy. The United States, the FCC, the telcos, etc., are making a big deal out of multimodal competition. (The telcos want to keep other people off the poles, outa their fiber, and offa their twisted pairs, so they support the idea -- idea -- of cable plus wireless plus broadband-over-powerline plus . . . This might be good for the telcos, but will it put the U.S. behind the rest of the developed world for the next 20 years?

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