ATLANTA—At the CTIA Wireless 2004 conference here on Monday, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell challenged attendees to keep up with wireless innovations and self-regulation, while Cisco Systems Inc. CEO John Chambers said we are entering into a new age of “IP mobility.”
Powell, speaking in an interview setting with new Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association CEO Steve Largent, the former NFL star wide receiver for the Seattle Seahawks, said he does not see new government regulation of the wireless industry in the near future but cautioned that such regulation could become a reality if the industry doesnt do enough to continue to grow and to police itself.
“[Regulation] is not inevitable, but its a risk when an industry really begins to mature, when you invite us to rely on the service,” Powell said. “Its your [opportunity] to lose. Competition and innovation make it difficult to justify regulation where there was none before. A lot of regulators are looking at wireless as an example of how to approach it. The regulatory sector is bright. Let the businesses anticipate the needs of their customers.”
Powell said that for the wireless industry to succeed, it needs to control its own destiny. “Its important to manage ones regulatory future in order to have more certainty over the investments you make,” he said. “Otherwise, you give up your fate to other groups. Id rather control my own fate than depend on others.”
On the subject of VOIP (voice over IP), Powell considers it “the most disruptive technology to come along.” Thats disruptive in a good way, he said, stressing that the industry should not think of VOIP as telephony but “as an integration application [where] you will see its real potential.”
“Its just an application that uses voice,” Powell said. “The sky is the limit. Its a killer application.”
Hands off of VOIP
Powell also sees a hands-off approach to VOIP. Although government will be tempted to push certain issues, such as emergency, disability and universal access, he said he doesnt foresee what he called “classic economic regulation in the carrier way.”
Powell suggested three ways that the government can manage broadband spectrum. First, he said, is for government to “recognize more spectrum that is effective for data applications.” He noted that the FCC will have a 90MHz auction “soon.” He also stressed spectrum flexibility. “Spectrum should be like giving a drivers license,” he said. Once you get a license, “What color car you drive [and] what you do with it is your business.” Third, Powell wants to see secondary markets mature to the point where solutions providers can sell technology without going through a re-licensing process.
“The industry needs to see [itself] in those terms,” Powell said. “Data is not an incremental add-on. Data is the engine.
“Consumers are excited but confused,” Powell said. “Wireless can be as indispensable to your family and lifestyle as your microwave is today, or your TV. This industry has an enormous reputation for being cutting-edge. It brought the world into personalization and customization. Thats what consumers want. Does it have a component of mobility? Can content be moved from place to place and device to device? They expect that.”
Citing his 15-year-old daughter, Powell said, “The teens of the world are the first digital generation. In four years, they are going to be our customers, our employees, our businessmen and -women. They have an imperative we dont fully appreciate. They demand interaction, control, the capability to create. They dont want to be given a ring tone; they want to make the ring tone. You are a part of the future about to be run over by those prepared to deal with it.”
: IP mobility is big”>
Equally optimistic about the wireless future is Ciscos Chambers, who says its not about “wireless” anymore, but “IP mobility.”
“IP mobility is the next big opportunity,” he said. “I still think we are being too conservative about the IP mobility opportunity.”
Echoing Powells talk, Chambers said, “Lets not regulate, lets get them off and running.”
At stake is more than just the health of Cisco or of the wireless industry, but rather the economic well-being of the country, he said. Future growth of the gross domestic product will depend on productivity growth. Productivity growth will not keep increasing without improved wired and wireless integration, processes, and applications, and the mobile IP network is at the heart of that. “The IP network is at the core of process change and applications,” he said.
Between the Powell and Chambers talks, Sun Microsystems Inc. CEO Scott McNealy entertained the crowd with a game of IT “Jeopardy.”