However, if all of these customers are downloading streaming video, it becomes a very different situation. When data is being delivered in streaming form, that is, on a continuous basis, the shared bandwidth is eaten up quickly and unless the network is smartly managed, some users will have more access than others. This is a point many within the FCC and Congress don't seem to understand. There are many within the wired Internet community who don't understand it either and are telling those in Washington, D.C., that wireless should be treated exactly like a wired connection.
One of the comments to this blog post took the writers to task, claiming that the fear of wireless broadband underperformance will enable network operators to raise their data prices and charge us all more. I believe that part of smart network management is using all of the tools available. This includes making sure the network is using all of the available bandwidth, making sure the network's backhaul and back-end can handle the increased demand for data, quality of service techniques to make sure all customers have equal access, and yes, pricing structures to make it more expensive for data hogs as another way to ensure that all customers have equal access to the available resources.
It is clear that the volume of Internet access by iPhone customers caught AT&T by surprise, but it is also clear that AT&T is responding to this new demand by beefing up its network as quickly as possible (city and county planning commissions can really slow down this process). It is also clear that iPhone users who are devouring 1 GB of data per month, every month, are impacting other users' ability to gain fast access to the Internet via wireless. We have to share our wireless bandwidth--even WiFi becomes congested--and it is not right for data hogs to deny services to other subscribers who are paying the same amount of money for their data services.
Network management means using all of the tools at your disposal, and pricing is one of those tools. To me, the issue is one of education more than anything. Those who are not conversant in wireless and its limitations are making suggestions to the government that are not based on facts, but rather on their assumption that wired and wireless are the same-which is not the case.
Andrew M. Seybold is an authority on technology and trends shaping the world of wireless mobility. A respected analyst, consultant, commentator, author and active participant in industry trade organizations, his views have influenced strategies and shaped initiatives for telecom, mobile computing and wireless industry leaders worldwide. www.andrewseybold.com. Don't miss the Andrew Seybold Wireless University on Monday, March 22, 2010, at CTIA Wireless 2010, Las Vegas, Nev.