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(Withdrawn) AT&T's Randall & Stankey: Wireless data growth half the FCC prediction
Written by Dave Burstein   
Friday, 27 January 2012 14:01
40%, not 92%-120%  “Data consumption right now is growing 40% a year,” John Stankey of AT&T told investors and his CEO Randall Stephenson confirmed on the investor call   That’s far less than the 92% predicted by Cisco’s VNI model or the FCC’s 120% to 2012 and 90% to 2013 figure in the “spectrum crunch” analysis. AT&T is easily a third of the U.S. mobile Internet and growing market share; there’s no reason to think the result will be very different when we have data from others. 
    With growth rates less than half of the predictions, a data-driven FCC and Congress has no reason to rush to bad policy. Wireless technology is rapidly moving to sharing spectrum, whether in-building small cells, WiFi, White Spaces, Shared RAN or tools of what the engineers are calling hetnets - heterogenous networks. The last thing policymakers should do is tie up more spectrum for exclusive use; shared spectrum often yields three to ten times as much capacity. 
 Bad compromises on the video spectrum are unnecessary because plenty of spectrum is unused. That includes the 20 MHz that M2Z would be building out today if Julius hadn’t blocked them; the 20 MHz the cable companies are sitting on and want to sell to Verizon; and the 30 MHz or so Stankey identifies as fallow at AT&T. 
    40% growth is still substantial, but wireless technology is improving at a breathtaking pace. LTE has about 10x the capacity of 2.5G and 4x the capacity of 3G. LTE Advanced, deploying beginning 2013 at Verizon, is designed for 10x the capacity of LTE. Putting more spectrum to use would be great, but let’s do it right. 
Wireless speeds are actually going up dramatically, with AT&T delivering 2-5 megabits to most of the country and Verizon’s LTE delivering 5-12 megabits to 2/3rds of the population. Verizon is ahead of schedule to bring 5 megabits+ to 92% of the country in 2013 and 96-98% in 2015-2016. AT&T and Sprint have raised capex to catch up. 80%+ of the U.S. will have a 5 megabit offering in 2013-2014, 90%+ by 2015 or sooner. That’s without any additional spectrum.
    Today’s wireless networks are designed to be shared: towers, WiFi, White Spaces, DAS and small cells all working together. The best engineers in the world are working on RAN sharing, SON, hetnets, 8x8 MIMO and techniques I’m writing about in my next book, Gigabit Wireless. AT&T in fact is one of the world leaders in DAS, WiFi and femtos and behind the scenes a key thought leader. There’s wonderfully exciting stuff I’ll be doing my best to translate for non-engineers. 
    Takeaway: The future is sharing the airwaves so let’s get the policy right.  

Sources:
I can’t imagine a more authoritative source on traffic patterns today than the CEO of AT&T, Randall Stephenson, talking to investors. Lying in Washington is part of the game, but Randall knows lying to Wall Street can backfire. http://seekingalpha.com/article/322378-at-t-s-ceo-discusses-q4-2011-results-earnings-call-transcript On what is happening today on the network, he’s a prime source. I can’t agree with his conclusions about the future needs for spectrum, but that’s opinion on both our parts. John Stankey, CEO of AT&T Business Solutions and former company CTO, goes into far more detail at http://seekingalpha.com/article/317986-at-t-s-ceo-presents-at-citi-global-entertainment-media-telecommunications-conference-transcript . It’s an excellent summary of how T is speeding up networks and making them more reliable even before spectrum becomes available. Definitely a good read if you’re technically minded. My guess is that if AT&T reveals all the technical details on traffic the number will be a little higher than the 35-40% referenced by the execs, but not enough to change the thrust of this article.
   Cisco’s Visual Network Index draws on the actual data from the biggest carriers in the world and is the best source on traffic today. Ignore the preamble written by the marketing folk and get right into the data tables. http://www.cisco.com/en/US/solutions/collateral/ns341/ns525/ns537/ns705/ns827/white_paper_c11-520862.html 
   The official FCC data is http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-302324A1.pdf . This is now called FCC STAFF TECHNICAL PAPER .MOBILE BROADBAND: THE BENEFITS OF ADDITIONAL SPECTRUM . OCTOBER 2010. It was originally issued as OBI TECHNICAL PAPER SERIES from the Omnibus Broadband Initiative (the broadband plan) but the staff from the plan rebelled and demanded their name be taken off. While they believed in releasing more spectrum, they had looked closely at the data and didn’t believe the claims in this paper. I got an email from inside the FCC. "There was a big push to manufacture a spectrum crisis. It's a lie that's being perpetuated to the uncertain benefit of a few and definite detriment of the rest." http://dslprime.com/a-wireless-cloud/61-w/3972-julius-scandal-manufacturing-spectrum-crisis I passed the story to the Washington Post including a prime source with a senior position at the FCC but they never followed up. Teflon Julius. 
   For the coming wireless technology, the details are at the official standards, The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP). They are hard to follow even for engineers, unfortunately. That’s why I have to write a book to translate them. http://www.3gpp.org/ftp/Information/WORK_PLAN/Description_Releases/ You want Release 10 (LTE) and Release 11 (LTE Advanced).