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FCC Pointing to iPad as Harbinger of Increased Wireless Spectrum Needs

MacNN points to a blog post written earlier this week by Phil Bellaria, a director in the National Broadband Task Force at the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), expressing concern over increasing cellular network congestion and citing Apple's iPad introduction as the spark for renewed fears.

Apple's iPad announcement has set off a new round of reports of networks overburdened by a data flow they were not built to handle. These problems are reminiscent of the congestion dialup users experienced following AOL's 1996 decision to allow unlimited internet use. For months users had trouble connecting and, once they did connect, experienced frequent service outages. The FCC even held hearings on the problem.

Despite the fact that the iPad has yet to begin shipping, Bellaria uses the concerns as fuel for his task force's push to free up additional wireless spectrum for such important and fast-growing uses as wireless broadband.

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.

AT&T, Apple's U.S. wireless partner for the iPhone and the upcoming service provider for the iPad, has received substantial criticism for its network performance as it has struggled to keep up with surging data traffic demands driven in large part by the popularity of the iPhone. But while AT&T is in the process of spending billions of dollars on its own infrastructure, the FCC reminds observers of the role it will play in the allocation of resources as it attempts to define a national plan for broadband access for an interconnected web of wired, wireless, and satellite technologies.