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FCC Frets Over IPad 'Network Congestion'

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February 11, 2010

FCC Frets Over IPad 'Network Congestion'

By David Sims, TMCnet Contributing Editor

The Federal Communications Commission has pronounced itself concerned that the iPad’s impending “network congestion” could “choke off a service that consumers clearly find so appealing, or frustrate mobile broadband’s ability to keep us competitive in the global broadband economy.”

That’s from an official FCC blog posting at It was written by Director of Scenario Planning Phil Bellaria and Wireless Telecommunications Bureau Deputy Chief John Liebovitz.

“Bellaria and Liebovitz didn’t specifically mention AT&T (News - Alert) by name,” said Darrell Etherington, industry observer, “but it seems fairly obvious who they’re talking about, given that the iPad so far only has one official carrier in the U.S.”

Bellaria and Liebovitz suggest that “AT&T and other mobile broadband providers must expand their spectrum offerings” to avoid a replay of the AOL (News - Alert)-sparked congestion of 1996-7, Etherington writes, acknowledging that “AT&T is taking steps to galvanize its network.”

“Wireless is our No. 1 investment priority,” John Stankey, head of AT&T’s Operations division, told the Associated Press (News - Alert). He might as well have added “finally.”

“AT&T executives spent an unprecedented amount of time on their fourth-quarter earnings conference call to defend the wireless network and detail how they plan to make it better,” the Associated Press reported, adding that AT&T “acknowledged that wireless traffic, particularly from the iPhone, means that performance in San Francisco and Manhattan are below AT&T’s targets.”

Steve Jobs (News - Alert) “played up the iPad’s ability to stream live baseball games and hit movies during his demonstration,” in The New York Times’ rather infelicitous phrasing. Great. Streaming baseball and hitting movies. Just what we need to clear up the overloaded data networks out there.

“Think your 3G connection is slow right now? Wait until we see a new wave of apps that can maximize all those new pixels on the iPad’s 9.7-inch display screen,” warns industry observer Kevin Kelleher. “IPad screens are bigger, but the bandwidth hasn’t increased in proportion.”

AT&T already ranks dead last among mobile carriers in customer satisfaction, in large part because it doesn’t have the bandwidth it needs.

David Sims is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of David’s articles, please visit his columnist page. He also blogs for TMCnet here.

Edited by Kelly McGuire

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