Going Mobile: Technology and Policy Issues in the Mobile Internet

I’m presenting a report on the Mobile Internet at the ITIF Global Command Center in Washington bright and early Tuesday morhing:

The Internet is changing. In a few short years, Internet use will come predominately from mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets rather than traditional PCs using fixed broadband. A fully mobile broadband Internet offers exciting opportunities for innovation in networks, devices, and applications with enormous benefits for the economy and society.

The shift from a wire-centric Internet to a mobile one has profound implications for technology, policy, and applications. A new report by ITIF Research Fellow Richard Bennett explains how mobile networks are changing as they become part of the Internet, the implications mobile networking has for public policy, and how policymakers can facilitate the transition to mobile broadband.

Join us for the presentation of the report and a panel discussion among leading representatives of diverse viewpoints on Internet policy.

Date: Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Time: 9:00am- 10:30am
Location: 1101 K Street Suite 610A Washington, DC 20005


Richard Bennett
Research Fellow, The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation

Harold Feld
Legal Director, Public Knowledge

Morgan Reed
Executive Director, Association for Competitive Technology

Barbara Esbin
Senior Fellow and Director, Center for Communications and Competition Policy, PFF

Click here to RSVP.

Blackberry dominates the world

Everybody knows we have our first Blackberry-toting president, but how many know that BlackBerry outsells Apple?

An aggressive “buy-one-get-one” promotion by Verizon Wireless helped RIM’s BlackBerry Curve move past Apple’s iPhone to become the best-selling consumer smartphone in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2009, according to market research firm The NPD Group.

RIM’s consumer smartphone market share increased by 15 percent to nearly half of the entire smartphone market in Q1 2009 versus the prior quarter. Apple’s and Palm’s market share both declined 10 percent each.

Part of this is driven by the new iPhone coming around in June, but Curve is not exactly state of the art in the Blackberry world. Take this as another example of conventional wisdom not being too wise.

See you in Washington

I’ve been asked to join a panel at the Congressional Internet Caucus’ short conference on the State of the Mobile Net on April 23rd. I’ll be on the last panel:

What Policy Framework Will Further Enable Innovation on the Mobile Net?

Richard Bennett, [bio forthcoming]
Harold Feld, Public Knowledge [bio]
Alexander Hoehn-Saric, U.S. Senate Commerce Committee [bio]
Larry Irving, Internet Innovation Alliance [bio]
Blair Levin, Stifel Nicolaus [bio]
Ben Scott, Free Press [bio]
Kevin Werbach, Wharton School of Business [bio]

I suspect we’ll spend the bulk of our time on the interaction between regulatory agencies, standards bodies, and industry groups. The case studies are how the process worked for Wi-Fi with the FCC opening up some junk spectrum, the IEEE 802.11 writing some rules, and the Wi-Fi Alliance developing compliance tests. In the UWB world, the model was a novel set of rules for high-quality spectrum followed by an IEEE 802.15.3a collapse and the subsequent attempt by the Wi-Media Alliance to save it. We probably will have UWB someday (wireless USB and Bluetooth 4.0 will both use it,) but the failure of the standards body was a major impediment.

With White Spaces up for grabs, we’d like to have something that’s at least as good as 802.11, but we really need to do a lot better.

Another topic of interest is whether mobile Internet access services should be regulated the same way that wireline services are regulated, and how we go about drafting that set of rules. The current state of the art is the 4 or 5 prongs of the FCC’s Internet Policy Statement, but these principles leave a lot to the imagination, as in all of the interesting questions about network management, QoS-related billing, third party payments, and the various forms of disclosure that may or may not be interesting.

The Internet is troubled by the fact that it’s worked pretty damn well for past 25 years, so there’s been no need to make major changes in its services model. It’s clear to me that some fairly disruptive upgrades are going to be needed in the near future, and we don’t want to postpone them by applying a legacy regulatory model to a network that’s not fully formed yet.

Bye bye G1

After suffering with the Google phone for 4 weeks, I took it back to T-Mobile yesterday (the contract says you only have 14 days, but I live in California where the time limit on an upgrade return is 30 days.) Jeff Turner describes the G1 appropriately: Like Windows 2.0, it’s good enough that you can tell it’s going to become the standard some day, but it’s not really usable in its present form. The main gripes I had with it are, in no particular order: poor battery life, dropped calls, a crappy Bluetooth implementation, unusable e-mail, a pathetic keypad, and a dearth of applications. My previous phone was a Blackberry Curve, which did everything that it did extremely well; if the Curve could do 3G I’d have got a replacement for the one I lost in London. But it doesn’t, so I’ve gone to a Sony Ericsson TM506, a feature phone that does phone things extremely well, has a built-in GPS (that doesn’t seem to work very well) and may possibly be used as a modem to tether a laptop to the 3G network (that feature seems to be controversial as Sony Ericsson supports it and T-Mobile may not; see update below.)

It’s basically a stop-gap until there’s a competent Blackberry for T-Mobile’s 3G network, which unfortunately uses oddball frequencies in the US.

The G1 has a high return rate owing to the generally pathetic implementation of Android by HTC. And I also don’t like sharing all the information about my personal life that Google wants. But that’s another story.

It’s clear the the iPhone has changed the game for mobile devices and the entrenched cell phone suppliers are struggling to catch up. I don’t doubt that Apple will continue to dominate the mobile device space for at least the next year or two, so I may just have to accede to reality and jump on that bandwagon.

UPDATE: Tethering works, I get close to 800Kbps at home, the Bluetooth limit, but the quota is pathetic: 100 MB/mo, and that’s not going to last long. Presumably, it downgrades to EDGE when the 3G quota is exhausted. The phone doesn’t have a standard USB connector, so I tethered over Bluetooth using the very nice PC Suite from Sony-Ericsson. It guides you through the Bluetooth hookup and makes accessing the Internet through the phone a point-and-click operation, even on a Mac.

It’s nice to use stuff that’s well engineered, isn’t oversold, and actually works, (except for that GPS, which must be defective on my phone.) including the GPS.

The 100MB/mo quota for $20 for the TM506 makes no sense compared to the 10GB/mo they sell for $25 to G1 customers unless Google is paying a subsidy to T-Mobile. If they are, Steve Jobs must be laughing all the way to the bank.