FCC’s Wheeler Wants More Competition, Faster Speeds

Carl Weinschenk
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Back to school week, at least in most areas, brought no major news to the IT and telecommunications sectors. Smaller moves and good analysis did pop up, as always.

A particularly interesting note was a speech given by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, in which he signaled an active role in pushing for better broadband services, in terms of both speed and number of competitors in a given locale.

The FCC was roundly criticized for fumbling the net neutrality process. That happened before Wheeler’s arrival, of course. He may be looking to rebuild the commission’s reputation by aggressively promoting its agenda.

FCC Chair Wants More than Duopolies

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is aiming to increase broadband speeds and access, according to PCWorld. Wheeler, in a speech at Washington, D.C. business incubator 1776, bemoaned the fact that though 93 percent of Americans have access to a broadband provider, less than 15 percent can buy services from more than two. Thus, the lion’s share of Americans is in duopoly status. These providers generally offer 4 Megabit per second (Mbps) service, which Wheeler characterized as “yesterday’s broadband.”

The situation is equally dismal at the top end:

At faster speeds, there’s even less competition, Wheeler said. More than 19 percent of U.S. residents have no broadband provider offering 25Mbps service, and another 55 percent have only one such provider, he said. Less than 2 percent of U.S. residents can buy service from three or more broadband providers offering 50Mbps service.

Wheeler’s dissatisfaction with such a landscape is an important element of the ongoing negotiations over how to create rules to replace net neutrality laws that were effectively thrown out in January.

Apps to Prevent Accidents, Lower Premiums

Sensors and geolocation services will enable the UBI telematics suite to track drivers’ habits and report emergency situations in real time. The platform, available from Agero, which Computerworld says is a large supplier of roadside safety software and services to automobile makers and insurance companies, can lead to lower insurance premiums and fast action in case of a crash.

The suite has two components: The PolicyPal app tracks driving habits and the Auto Crash Notification element reports mishaps. This is not the first such initiative, however.

In-Drive from State Farm and Snapshot from Progressive are voluntary programs that can lead to lower rates.

Telcos Bet on G.fast in the Last Mile

Lightreading’s Ian Morris does a nice job of summing up where research is on the very important topic of G.fast. For a couple of decades, telephone companies and cable operators have used various strategies to keep up with the ever-increasing amount of data entering homes. Cable uses, and periodically advances, the Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS). Telephone companies generally opt for fiber or find ways to push digital subscriber line (DSL) technology further.

Currently, the telephone industry and its vendors are working on a technology called G.fast. It’s still in development and trial phases, but the approach, which radically increasing the capacity of copper over short distances, could be a tremendous leap for the telcos.

As long ago as 2011, G.fast showed the ability to traffic data at 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps). This, the story points out, is 10 times as vast as VDSL2:

Nevertheless, some prominent operators have the technology in their sights. Swisscom AG (NYSE: SCM) is working with Huawei, its main fiber-to-the-street (FTTS) partner, on G.fast, while Telekom Austria AG (NYSE: TKA; Vienna: TKA) has been conducting trials with Alcatel-Lucent, and last year claimed to have recorded speeds of 800 Mbit/s over loop lengths of 100 meters. In addition, Germany's Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) was reported in February to be planning its own G.fast trials later this year. (See Swisscom Boasts FTTX Milestone and Telekom Austria Tests G.fast.)

Morris says that progress has been “halting.” Clearly, however, progress is being made, and lots of very smart and well-financed people are working the problem.

Powerful Chip Combines Wi-Fi, Bluetooth

One of the main reasons that devices get smaller and more powerful is that integration, or the concentration of more functionality into a single chip, is an ongoing process.

A great example is Broadcom, which said that its new Wi-Fi/Bluetooth chip, the BMC4358, will double wireless performance. Venturebeat says that it is aimed at high-end tablets and smartphones. The chip will be available in the third quarter of the year, will feature 5G 802.11ac and Bluetooth, and will use a 2x2 multiple in multiple out (MIMO) antenna.

Quantum Computing Moves Closer

And, finally, comes a story about the quantum future. For years, futurists have said that quantum approaches will revolutionize computing. Folks have not paid too much attention, essentially because the only people smart enough to know what quantum computing is were the ones talking it up.

It seems, however, that quantum computing is coming closer to actual use. Eweek reports that Google is working with researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara to develop quantum computing processors. Google’s Quantum Artificial Intelligence unit will work with UCSB to extend its work with D-Wave Systems.

Here is a good explanation of quantum computing:

Quantum computing holds the promise of creating systems that are millions of times faster than current supercomputers. In traditional computing, bits can only hold values of "1" or "0." However, quantum bits—or "qubits"—can hold values of 1, 0, or both at the same time, opening up the possibility of systems running through millions of calculations simultaneously. In an interview with eWEEK in July, Bernie Meyerson, IBM Fellow and vice president of Innovation at the company, said the expansion of possibilities was analogous to human communications.

Other companies are working on quantum computing, too. One of these is IBM, which said in July it will spend $3 billion during the next five years on related projects.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Intenet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.

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