Michael Finneran
Michael F. Finneran, is President of dBrn Associates, Inc., a full service advisory firm specializing in wireless and mobility; services...
Read Full Bio >>

Michael Finneran | June 24, 2011 |


Legislating Openness in Mobility

Legislating Openness in Mobility A proposed law would require mobile operators to disclose cost, performance, and reliability details about their 4G network services.

A proposed law would require mobile operators to disclose cost, performance, and reliability details about their 4G network services.

In a noble if flawed attempt to bring some degree of honesty to the mobile operators, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) has proposed a new law titled the "Next Generation Wireless Disclosure Act" that would require mobile operators to disclose cost, performance, and reliability details about their 4G network services. Needless to say, transparency is not high on the priority list of the mobile operators, and the CTIA--The Wireless Association--has replied, "We are concerned that the bill proposes to add a new layer of regulation to a new and exciting set of services, while ignoring the fact that wireless is an inherently complex and dynamic environment in which network speeds can vary depending on a wide variety of factors."

Out of the box, Rep. Eshoo's proposed law would require mobile operators to spell out "the guaranteed minimum transmit and receive data and from on-network hosts for the service," To qualify, that minimum data rate would have to be available "for a percentage of the time in a calendar month", which percentage would be specified by the FCC.

The trouble with that is that mobile networks are immense undertakings covering thousands of square miles with hundreds of thousands of base stations, complicated sharing mechanisms and relying on radio technologies that are fundamentally unpredictable to begin with. If that minimum would have to be met in every square centimeter of the operator’s network, I'm afraid the number would be depressingly low.

However, it wouldn't be very enlightening either. Cellular data services use shared channels, and every user in a cell or a sector (i.e. a cell coverage area is often divided into two or three "sectors") is sharing that channel. Further complicating the picture is the fact that users with stronger signals operate at higher data rates and the operators can make all sorts of adjustments in the scheduling algorithms (i.e. the protocol that determines who gets to send when) to optimize the overall performance. To get an idea of how complex a picture this really is, take a look at this article from PC World--and even that is not really comprehensive.

Under the bill, the operators would also have to publish a "reliability rating" for their services, and the FCC would specify the method for determining the rating. Further, the operators would have to disclose price and volume for their flat rate plans and disclose what 4G technology the consumer is getting (e.g. LTE or WiMAX), along with a map of the coverage area.

One provision that will most certainly set off a ruckus is the requirement to disclose "any business practices or technical mechanisms employed by the service provider, other than standard best-effort delivery, that allocate capacity or prioritize traffic differently on the basis of the source of the applications, content, or services." This would include "any limits or prohibition" on the use of various applications or services, and any "traffic shaping or throttling mechanisms that affect the service as a result of exceeding certain usage limits."

The mobile operators dodged the bullet when they were explicitly exempted from the Net Neutrality rules, and this would seemingly drag them right back into it. One idea that is regularly proposed for reducing mobile voice costs is to utilize VoIP over the 3G/4G data service as an alternative to the operators’ traditional cents-per-minute circuit switched voice service. With 4G, all traffic will eventually go VoIP, but the operators have been close-lipped about how 4G would be priced or even if we'd have traditional "voice" plans as we do today. While VoIP over 3G data is rarely used today, if it were to impact service revenues, you can be fairly sure the operators would at least consider taking steps to degrade the performance to those voice streams. That’s not the kind of information they’ll want to release.

Better consumer protection is long overdue in the mobile service business, but I don't think this bill is the right path. Mobile networks are simply too large and complex to characterize with one or two simple numbers. However, I do applaud Rep. Eshoo putting some ideas on the table. It is virtually impossible to figure out how many bytes it takes to send a text, a picture, download a song or a web page or just about anything else you’d do with your phone. We have not found the mobile operators to be the most consumer-friendly organizations to deal with, so anything that would start to turn that around would be welcome.

In the meantime, you can expect the CTIA's PR and lobbying groups to shift into high gear over this.


August 16, 2017

Contact centers have long been at the leading edge of innovation in communications technology, given their promise of measurable ROI and the continual need to optimize customer interactions and sta

July 12, 2017

Enterprises have been migrating Unified Communications & Collaboration applications to datacenters - private clouds - for the past few years. With this move comes the opportunity to leverage da

May 31, 2017

In the days of old, people in suits used to meet at a boardroom table to update each other on their work. Including a remote colleague meant setting a conference phone on the table for in-person pa

August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.