CTIA – The Wireless Association® and the wireless industry recognize the value consumers place on their mobile broadband services and applications. We have consistently advocated that the regulatory and legislative framework for broadband remain flexible and thoughtfully focused on supporting the continued growth and innovation made possible by the wireless Internet to serve both the nation’s and consumers’ needs.
Mobile providers do not just deliver broadband to the premise; they deliver broadband to the person. It should come as no surprise then that wireless Internet is by far the fastest-growing, most competitive category of broadband connections, with technology innovations and new applications appearing almost daily. While consumer demand for this relatively new communications opportunity is exponentially growing, CTIA is pleased that a recent Federal Communications Commission (FCC) survey confirmed what other third-party surveys have found: that 92 percent of American consumers are satisfied with their wireless service.
CTIA encourages legislative action that recognizes the unique and invaluable role of wireless broadband in providing all Americans with equal access to this technology. We believe that mobile broadband is an important component to America’s continued technology innovation, investment and job creation. To capitalize on the enormous benefits of wireless Internet access at anytime and anywhere for consumers, we must make sure that mobile broadband is defined and supported so that it properly reflects these opportunities while also encouraging its continued widespread adoption.
Wireless carriers will best deliver on this unparalleled potential with a stable regulatory environment that relies primarily on market forces and avoids government intrusion into new and evolving services.
- U.S. Consumer Demand Is Driving a Virtuous Cycle of Competitive Service, Innovation and Economic Benefits.
Today, more than 91 percent of Americans can choose from among four or more wireless carriers, not counting resellers. In the largest urban areas, consumers can choose from more than 14 providers. Even in the smallest cities, eight out of 10 consumers can select from 14 or more providers. An August 2010 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) supports CTIA’s position that the U.S. wireless industry is extremely competitive and continues to respond to increasing customer demand by delivering real benefits for consumers.
- While wireless carriers are deploying 4G service into major U.S. markets nationwide, 3G is now available to more than 92 percent of all Americans, regardless of where they live. We have more than 123 million unique 3G subscribers, more than the 5 largest European Union countries combined (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK).
- The GAO report found that the cost of U.S. wireless service in 2009, adjusted for inflation, is roughly half of what it was in 1999, showing that “consumers are getting more wireless service for lower costs than 10 years ago.” The report also noted that rising penetration rates, including increasing numbers of wireless-only households, means that the competition for existing subscribers is more intense than ever. The average revenue per minute in the U.S. was four cents as compared with 16 cents in Europe, as of the end of 2009, which meant that a wireless customer in Europe used on average 160 minutes per month as compared with more than 824 minutes per month in the U.S.
- The penetration of 3G and 4G in the United States, combined with this large user market today drives the world’s largest market for wireless devices and services. American consumers have more than 630 choices of handsets made by 32 different companies, and hundreds of thousands of applications have been introduced on seven different platforms in the two years since the first application store opened.
- Insatiable consumer demand drives competition, which stimulates more technology innovation, creating more U.S. jobs and economic activity in a virtuous cycle of benefits. Government rules that are not sufficiently flexible place this dynamic marketplace at risk and could harm consumers’ wireless choices and benefits.
- Wireless Broadband Is Different, Requiring Regulatory Flexibility and Spectrum Expansion.
Broadband needs to be defined and treated by the government in a way that is compatible with the fast-growing and evolving mobile Internet, and by American consumers’ clear belief that wireless products and services are the future. An important consideration in any regulatory or legislative matter is that wireless networks require unique management techniques. When the FCC recently tried to impose large-scale efforts to measure broadband speeds, CTIA was pleased that the agency recognized that a wireless network poses special challenges not found in wireline networks. Rules that apply to fixed broadband are simply not appropriate for mobile broadband.
- Broadband should be defined as all of the wireless data technologies that are currently in use by consumers or that are being deployed by carriers, and the definition should evolve over time to reflect introduction of new technologies and the removal of outmoded technologies.
- The biggest single constraint on wireless broadband options is spectrum limitations. The industry is investing billions of dollars to expand capacity to meet consumer demand for more and faster multimedia, data and Internet applications using their wireless devices. But broadband delivery platforms share capacity among services and users to a certain degree, which means wireless carriers alone cannot build their way out of capacity limitations. CTIA welcomes the Administration’s support to free up 500 MHz of spectrum, and is looking forward to working with the FCC, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and Congress to bring this spectrum to market to meet consumer demand, and in the process, create more jobs and economic growth.
- Due to the science and physics of spectrum use, there is only so much capacity that is available. This differs dramatically from landline and cable broadband service. One strand of fiber has more capacity than the entire electromagnetic spectrum. So even if we were able to get all of the spectrum available in the U.S., we still wouldn’t be able to have the same capacity as a single strand of fiber.
- Net Neutrality Rules Will Have Unintended Consequences on the Mobile Internet Ecosystem.
Imposing net neutrality rules on mobile broadband will inject uncertainty into a lively market and impact investment. This will ultimately harm U.S. consumers who are currently enjoying the fastest-growing, most competitive wireless market in the world. Wireless and fixed broadband networks have inherent technological differences, and cannot be managed to meet customers’ expectations using a one-size-fits-all approach.
- In 2009, more than 78 percent of the wireless devices in use in America were mobile broadband capable, and according to FCC data, more than 90 percent of Americans live in areas with more than four 3G wireless broadband service providers. Between 1997 and 2008, wireless subscribers in the U.S. had increased nearly five-fold to more than 270 million. Applying Internet regulation to mobile broadband places these vibrant trends at risk.
- Lower Barriers to Wireless Broadband Infrastructure Can Speed Deployment.
CTIA is requesting the FCC take steps to facilitate more capacity construction by: placing a priority on access to additional spectrum in the National Broadband Plan; bringing to auction spectrum in the 1.7GHz and 2.1 GHz bands; enabling clearance of spectrum already allocated and auctioned for use by wireless carriers; and providing access to existing utility poles where new tower construction is not possible.
Last Updated: November 2010