Electronic Design

CTIA Day 3: Politics, Gadgets, And Standards, Oh My!

Steve Largent kicked off the day with some interesting new stats based on a recent CTIA survey. The general conclusion is that people are “living through their handsets”. How true: 91% are satisfied with their current service. Most subscribers want no more regulation. Already state cell-phone taxes are adding from 16% to 22 % tax to cell-phone service. For those hoping to avoid more regulation, you can join the MyWireless (www.mywirreless.org) movement, a non-profit that fights for less regulation.

The remainder of the keynote was a treat with both ex-presidential contenders John Edwards and Fred Thompson speaking. John Edwards started by asking the audience if they really understood the issues: the economy, immigration, overseas entanglements (war), health care, etc., and how the various candidates stand on each. It is evident that few people really know the issues in any depth. And almost no one actually clearly understands the differences between the stands by each candidate. What a sorry state. Edwards went on to say that the media was running things and turning the campaign into a popularity contest where the issues really take a back seat. The media is more interested in who is ahead and especially in creating and promoting any improprieties and fights. There is too much focus on the celebrity and the superficial. Edwards says that the country deserves better.

Edwards also said that we needed to come together to confront the tough challenges produced by the massively increasing population and the acceleration of consumption. He said we really need to deal with the global warming problem. The U.S. is vying with China for first place polluter. Edwards is big on the global view of the world where nation states should not operate in their own self interest. We are all connected today and we cannot live or address problems in isolation. Not all agree with this, though.

Fred Thompson pretty much stood with Edwards on the problems that the media causes. More glitz and controversy and less education of the public on the issues and positions—a huge waste of resources that could improve matters nationwide. The press concentrates on the process of the campaign and less on the substance. Thompson blurted that the media fosters discontent and controversy instead and that they would rather show the cat fight between candidates than report on the real problems, solutions, and issues. He also said that just trying to be yourself in the campaign is bad advice. And it definitely helps to be very rich when running for President. He quoted someone who in the past said that anyone willing to go through this process should automatically be disqualified. Candidates are promising things they cannot deliver and we are bankrupting the future generation with things like social security and health care.

Thompson further said that no one politician will really address the problems. While credible candidates are out there to do this, he said that most are not willing to subject themselves to the process the media puts everyone through. Finally he said that he believed that the media is trying its best to talk us into a recession. They seem to be succeeding. Then again, he said he hoped that congress would not continue to increase regulation on wireless or other businesses. The free market is still best. What a waste.

In the Q & A session that followed, both ex-candidates were asked who influenced them most as a politician. Edwards named Bobby Kennedy and Governor Terry Sanford of North Carolina. Thompson named Howard Baker, senator and leader of the Watergate investigation. Both agreed what we need is a candidate that is civil and honest, tries to be bipartisan but maintain convictions, and exhibits leadership. It is the extremes of the bases on the left and right that really push the candidates into disagreeable attitudes and positions.

The Q &A also centered on the media and its 24/7 cycle that needs massive amounts of material to fill its air space. The media thrives on controversy and does not do a good job of educating the public. The extreme positions that the mainstream media often puts forth come from the far left and right wing bloggers they have come to rely upon. Not good.

It may seem unlikely given the fire and brimstone approach the two politicians took, but the session had much humor. Thompson certainly supported McCain but Edwards would not commit to supporting either Hillary or Obama. Both said they would not accept a Vice President bid.

My first briefing of the day was with Telit, another major M2M vendor. They make quad-band GSM/GPRS as well as UMTS and HSDPA modules. They also have cdma2000 modules that use 1xRTT data rates to 153 kb/s. The control is by AT commands. Modules can also be field upgraded by downloads over the network. Over 90% of their business is GSM. The main application is asset tracking but the number of uses is all over the place. It was a neat product that fits around a power wire and monitors the current through it—great for detecting where power lines are down and measuring actual usage.

I also spoke to AuthenTec, a company that makes sensors that read a person’s finger print. These tiny sensors can now be embedded in cell phones and laptops and even fixed locks making access available to only one recognized users.

I wrapped up the day with a discussion with the FLO Forum. This organization has members supporting and promoting the MediaFLO version of broadcast mobile TV. The FLO forum has finalized seven standards that have been released to the TIA for final publication. Mobile TV broadcasting in the U.S. will use the FLO standards. Verizon is already offering several channels on the U.S. channel 55 frequency band (716-722 MHz). AT&T will follow. While most broadcast cell phone TV will use MediaFLO, some processors are available to handle the DVB-H technology which is the European standard. Here comes mobile TV whether you want it or not. But like many technologies we do not ask for, it could become very popular assuming the carriers offer low subscription prices and interesting content. We could see a cable TV like service where the bundling of channels rather than a la carte selection is the only offering. Oh boy . . . here we go again.

In Conclusion
The show wound down at 3 pm. The CTIA does an above average job of putting on a great show. And it really points up the impact that cell phones have had on all of us, our lives, work and leisure. The handset is our constant companion and becoming more and more capable as it includes smart phone features of cameras, e-mail, messaging, TV, GPS location technology and Internet browsing. The trend is certainly more data applications at higher speeds with LTE at the forefront. The next CTIA show is in San Francisco in October.

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