Friday, November 27, 2020

Guest Blogger Series: Kristian Ramos “Siri Says: A Wireless Traffic Jam Is Just Ahead”

Little known fact, in 2011 Hispanic auto buyers accounted for roughly 24% of the growth in new-vehicle sales. An even less known fact Hispanic’s are leading the smart phone revolution, Sixty percent of Hispanic households own at least one Internet enabled smart phone compared with 43 percent of general households.  In a case of synergistic nirvana cars will soon boast the capabilities of smartphones and drivers will have the option of a driving experience enhanced by Apple’s Siri.

Latinos like most Americans have come to rely on the ability to access information from anywhere. The desire to enhance a mobile ‘life on the go’ lifestyle is fueling a growing demand for mobile services. It’s not surprising, that this penchant for mobile access would extend to our cars.

Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T, recently predicted that “The car is where you will be able to access data next…this will fundamentally change how we live, interact, and socialize.”  Audi, BMW, General Motors, Honda, Mercedes, and Toyota, among others have signed on to add built-in Apple Siri buttons into steering wheels or dashboards of many of their vehicles within the next 12 months.  Drivers will be able to use Apple’s voice activated Siri button to access their iPhones and place calls, hear and dictate text messages, find directions, and play music, all while keeping their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.

This is an exciting development, yet this technology also increases demand for wireless services when such demand for all mobile services is exploding.  Cisco predicts that in the U.S. from 2011–2016, mobile data traffic will grow 18-fold. There are no easy solutions for this problem, as more people utilize mobile wireless, a spectrum crunch, which would create slower mobile access as soon as next year, becomes much more likely. That is unless something is done about this soon.

The problem is simple enough, the U.S. mobile phone industry is running out of the airwaves or Spectrum necessary to provide voice, text and wireless services, the solutions are complicated. One of the best options comes in the form of secondary market transactions between those who currently own unused spectrum and wireless carriers who could use the spectrum for their customers. The government in the form of the FCC controls the sales of such spectrum. This process has been around for a while, recently the President and the Chairman of the FCC, acknowledging how slow the government has been at identifying new spectrum, are in the process of approving new transactions. The real problem here is that this approval takes a long time.

Just as our country is changing demographically, with Hispanic’s leading the way, the country is changing how we interact with the internet through mobile wireless. This is not changing any time soon. As the telecommunications industry continues to create new applications and ways to utilize mobile wireless more people are going to be utilizing spectrum, this is just a simple fact of life in our increasingly connected world.   Delays in approving secondary market transactions only create a greater likelihood of a future mobile wireless crunch.  Keeping pace with the demand for mobile wireless is a good thing, as it will allow America to remain at the forefront of the wireless revolution.

Whether traveling on the information superhighway or an actual highway, nobody wants to slow down.  With the correct decisions by policy makers, consumers will be able to reap the mobile rewards that are benefit our lives, and Siri will be able to focus one getting you around that next actual traffic jam.

Kristian Ramos is Policy Director, 21st Century Border Initiative, at NDN and The New Politics Institute.