"Take all the land mines in the world, and you have more in Afghanistan alone," he said. "It makes laying telephone lines and cable very dangerous." Khoja was trying to be light-hearted about it, considering the situation of the war-torn country. But in fact, due to the mines and the rugged terrain, building a land-based communications infrastructure is near impossible.
Wireless is changing that. In 2003, there were only 30,000 mobile users in the country; now there are more than 1 million using wireless services from voting to Internet access to music downloads, he said.
Other speakers spoke about how, in the United States, the telecom industry is poised to build out an already large wireless infrastructure with more spectrum, and how wireless has become the "go-to" technology to help deal with natural disasters like last falls hurricane Katrina.
"Wireless is less dependent on a fixed infrastructure," said FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, in a chat with CTIA CEO Steve Largent. "It can absorb natural disasters better and can be put back in place faster. It is more resilient and robust to come back into service when disaster happens."
Martin said increasing spectrum is his No. 1 priority. The FCC will hold an auction for Advance Wireless Services in June and is preparing to auction off the 700MHz band after that, with companies like Microsoft and Google already lining up, Martin said.
"There needs to be enough capacity to provide services, as wireless is becoming a substitute for other modes of communication," said Martin, adding that AWS and 700MHz auctions will double the amount of bandwidth available.
"700 is important because of its technical characteristics, enabling rich data, requiring low power, and its ability to penetrate walls," he said.
Martin said the FCC will continue its policy of a "light regulatory" touch on the wireless industry, to enable services to flourish and innovation to prosper, and to maintain a level playing field for all providers. He also will push forward initiatives to increase access for disabled users.