AT&T Buys Into LTE & FCC Plays Softball

Warning! Some interesting but perhaps dry reading ahead!

Two recent developments; AT&T buying Qualcomms 700MHz spectrum licenses, and the FCC new net neutrality regulations were recently covered by, both of which directly and indirectly impact the security industry respectively.

AT&T’s purchase of Qualcomms 700MHz (commonly known as G4, or LTE) spectrum licenses for $1.9 Billion is showing that AT&T is willing to put it’s money where it’s mouth is. Many consumers thought that AT&T was way behind other major wireless carriers in rolling out wide scale G4 or LTE service, a fact played up by other carriers with wider existing G4 coverage.

LTE service currently covers over 300 million Americans.  AT&T will use the additional bandwidth to enhance it’s already existing fledgling G4 network to bring faster wireless data speeds to it’s customers and better reliability (less dropped connections) that became a problem when mobile users surpassed the carriers projected consumer wireless data usage. Start looking for G4/ LTE wireless devices from AT&T this coming year, with Android and then Apple leading the way.

The implications for the Security industry: The 700MHz spectrum is a great spectrum form data transmission. It has wide band width (more information carrying ability) and a smaller wavelength, which means that the signal can actually better penetrate buildings and get through narrow openings (like around and through city blocks). This means generally better signal strength and faster data speeds in areas that might have been marginal. Of course, you need a G4 device to take advantage of this, see above paragraph, last sentence.

With the good news (LTE is coming to town) comes a caveat. The security industry went through a major upheaval several years ago when the FCC abolished (FCC sunset law) analog wireless services and mandated only digital wireless services. You see, most security dealers had many radio backup alarm transmitters connected to their customers alarm systems. All of these radios were analog, and there were thousands and thousands of them in the field. I, and most other security dealers, then had to replace every single analog radio unit with digital ones, mostly at our own expense. We replaced the old units with transmitters based on GSM technology.

See the problem? We went from analog to GSM. Now security dealers are looking at a potential (it will happen, give it 3 – 5 years) sunset of GSM.

Fortunately, some security manufacturers (Honeywell for instance) learned their lesson the first time around, and made their radio units easily and inexpensively field upgradable to who knows what standard might come next (most likely LTE). For those consumers that chose Honeywell security equipment, kudos! You have pretty much future proofed your security investment.

Getting back to an article I wrote on 05-07-2010 “When The Going Gets Tough, The FCC Gets Going“, I expressed the opinion that the FCC would not take their defeat in the Supreme Court (FCC vs. Comcast) laying down. Well, I was kind of right, hence the above title, “The FCC Plays Softball”. The FCC has in fact turned to passing a new set of regulations that bypass most of the constraints that are holding them back from regulating the data carrying industry, but in a way I did not anticipate. The FCC has decided on a two pronged approach, one set of regulations covering land line data carriers (fairly strong/ successful regulation for net neutrality) and another set for wireless data carriers (weaker/ less successful for net neutrality).

Of course these new regulations have everyone (most everyone involved) screaming, but you can’t make all of the people happy all of the time. A thorough reading of the above linked article is needed to really understand who is angry at what.

Net neutrality is a critical ideal to ensure equal access to ALL web sites and to new and developing cutting-edge online services, but the FCC regulations seem to fall short, considering that recent Pew Research data (Pew Research Study) shows that 55% of all Americans have accessed the Internet by wireless devices.

Lets just call it a step in the right direction.

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