Two FCC officials voiced their concern over the potential impact Apple's new iPad and other devices like it will have on wireless networks.
Phil Bellaria, director of scenario planning, and John Leibovitz, deputy chief of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau noted on the FCC's blog, Blogband, a new round of fears of network problems surrounding the release of the iPad. They said the capacity crunch problems are reminiscent of congestion problems AOL experienced in the 1990s when it decided to allow unlimited Internet use.
"The congestion problem circa 1996-97 revealed an intense latent demand for Internet access," the two wrote. "Similarly, wireless network congestion today reveals intense demand for wireless broadband. Widespread use of smartphones, 3G-enabled netbooks, and now, perhaps, the iPad and its competitors demonstrate that wireless broadband will be a hugely important part of the broadband ecosystem as we move ahead."
They wrote that eventually AOL solved the problems by upgrading its modem and server capacities and said that wireless operators too will be able to solve congestion but only if they have enough spectrum.
"Reaching an always-on wireless broadband future means that spectrum can no longer remain attached solely to uses deemed valuable decades ago. The broadband plan will suggest ways of moving more spectrum into high value uses, such as broadband access, to help ensure that we don't get stuck in 1997 dialup-style congestion," they stated.
For its part regarding the iPad, AT&T has said it doesn't expect huge congestion problems on the network. During its recent quarterly conference call with analysts, AT&T executives said they believe iPad users will rely predominantly on WiFi, and therefore it won't drain AT&T's 3G network. "We will monitor the usage as the device gets out there," said Rick Lindner, senior executive vice president and CFO at AT&T. "If it turns out substantially different, we will adapt."
The 3G/WiFi version of the iPad will sell for $130 more than a WiFi-only device so folks are predicting that the WiFi-only device will be more appealing.
- see the FCC's Blogband post
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