back to article Wireless performance will collapse, prices rise: Deloitte

Deloitte is predicting a looming spectrum crunch that will result in higher prices and poor performance, even on LTE networks. In its annual 2013 Technology, Media and Telecommunications predictions, the company says carriers worldwide can’t keep pace with device adoption – especially because “the average smartphone drives 35 …


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  1. LarsG


    So what you are saying is don't bother spending too much thinking you will get great wireless speeds, even when LTE becomes mainstream we will be fighting each other over bandwidth.

    The major cities will probably suffer first and the most, while those of us out in the sticks won't even see it for years. Even if we do finally get it here, eventhough our system will not be as overloaded as say London I am sure they will make sure we 'pay' as much as everyone else.

    1. miknik

      The irony

      of hearing I will struggle to receive the data speed I expect to from a company who I associate solely with receivership is not wasted upon me.

  2. Anomalous Cowshed

    What is a geography? Is it in any way related to the old Anglo-Saxon vernacular farming term "bullshit'?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "download speeds may be under 1Mbit/s for lengthy periods of time"

    Sounds good, download speeds 1000 times faster than what I see atm.

    1. Ole Juul

      Rural wireless might end up being envied. Also a slow net for more people could force some of the popular sites to smarten up and speed up their pages. I'm just trying to find an up side here.

      1. Moof

        I am very rural in Central Virginia. Wireless is overcrowded and one of the few ways for many to get internet access. Our speeds are atrocious during days when there isn't any school, although at night (after kiddies go to bed) and early morning is is decent. We just started to get LTE in the area, but I will need to spend an extra 500.00 for a bi-directional amplifier / antennas to get the signal strong enough to be more useful. I wouldn't envy the situation. Verizon needs to invest in backhaul which I am sure is way too little for the number of people who are using wireless as their main internet connection. Don't even get me started on what it costs!

  4. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Captain, we are detecting huge physical limitations. I recommend we increase shield strength.

    "The prediction would be music to the ears of Australia’s Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, who has been criticized for setting too high a floor price for this country’s upcoming spectrum auctions."


    So riddle me this...

    1) Scarcity of bandwidth shall be economically allocated through adequate pricing, as any non-progressive intellect will agree, makes sense.

    2) For some reason, this resolves the totally unrelated problem of the government setting a high price on the spectrum. Setting a high price on the spectrum ultimately means heavily taxing the end users (that's you, btw.) as the phone companies' investment in the spectrum needs to be recouped, so it will be passed on, it will not magically be paid through a money hoard held by evil one-percenters with crooked noses.

    It's magic! Or is it?

    1. DavCrav

      Re: Captain, we are detecting huge physical limitations. I recommend we increase shield strength.

      The point is that if the price of data rises significantly then mobile companies buying cheap licences make a windfall, and more expensive licences are economically viable.

    2. magrathea

      Re: Captain, we are detecting huge physical limitations. I recommend we increase shield strength.

      If it's a scarce resource, then it will be charged for accordingly by the licence holder no matter what price the government charges them for the licence. The government charging a low price won’t reduce the scarcity or the price to customers; it will just allow the licence holder to pocket unearned money for it.

  5. Tom 35

    And yet

    The cell phone companies continue to push crap like TV on your phone. Anything to add a few $ to the monthly charge.

  6. Pondule

    Less power Scotty

    If the problem is more serious in the cities why not just install more aerials and turn the power down on each one? Putting low power aerials near school playgrounds would be a good first step since the children's phones would then adapt to the lower power setting and reduce cooking their brains.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Less power Scotty

      Well, I sort of agree with you, but mostly don't. Adding more of anything into crowded cities just compounds the respective problem, well, outside of public plumbing and what not, although even that can turn out bad.

      To be honest, are we just that dependent on wireless devices that if the whole system would crash, we would go down with it? I don't think so. Maybe we should consider our gross usage of such devices. Remember the shared community lines, 10 people to a line? Of course that wouldn't work, because a lot of people would be too concerned about privacy issues, and then turn to post dozens of Facebook updates about it :-).

    2. Christian Berger

      Re: Less power Scotty

      They already do that. Particularly on (W)CDMA and LTE networks you do need to manage your power carefully. So they do use the minimal power possible. Also the lower your power is, the earlier you can re-use that frequency.

      The problem with that is that is that new base stations not only cost lots of money, but also annoy the "electro sensitive" crowd. (it is simpler to upgrade an existing base station)

      BTW the phones don't adapt, it's all controlled from the base station. The base station constantly tells the mobile station what power it should use.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    It's funny

    Since I got my Chromebook, my data usage on the smartphone is plummeting. I still look up a few driving directions on the phone, but I do almost all the email and intertubes browsing on the little Chromebook. Seems like I can almost always find WiFi these days. Sometimes I go a week without using the phone for anything but calling. Weird.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Re: It's funny

      If you can almost always find wifi, the data usage on your cellphone should have been mostly wifi too, shouldn't it? Or did you not bother connecting to wifi with your phone because you had data allowance to burn?

      If I wanted to drag a laptop with me everywhere I went I probably wouldn't have much need to use my phone for anything but a phone, but until they make a laptop that can be folded up to fit in my pocket and weighs only 4 ounces, I'll stick with my phone, thanks.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's funny

        > Or did you not bother connecting to wifi with your phone because you had data allowance to burn?

        Yeah, I have an unlimited data contract for a very low price on the phone, but I don't really care for doing much work on the smaller phone screens anyway. I just keep the Chromebook in a small bag in my car. It weighs more than 4 ounces, but not much more -- maybe a pound -- about like carrying a newspaper around with me.

        Probably wouldn't work for most people, but I've just naturally stopped using or thinking about using the phone browser for the most part. And I end up having a bad experience with most of the phone apps that use data - I download them and find them useful for a couple of days, and then quickly realize how limited they are and send them to the wastebasket.

  8. fishman

    Full of crap

    Sorry, but I do not belive that there will be a 50 fold increase in wireless traffic from 2012 to 2016. About half of all cellphones are smartphones in the US, and 90% of adults have cellphones. Even if you assume that in four years every person would have a smartphone (I'd guess tripling the current number) everyone in the US would have to use 10 to 20 times the amount of data they currently use. And the current data rate structure that most carriers use would make that cost prohibitive for most users.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Full of crap

      Yes, the report does smell like the usual industry-funded piece of crap designed to justify either price hikes or cuts in the quality of service or, most likely, both.

      LTE has never really been about more bandwidth for users but more efficiency for operators who can drop the pesky need to provided expensive connection-based services for voice. However, if UMTS has taught them anything it should be that the market will accept only a certain degree of gouging before looking for alternatives.

    2. 186k

      Re: Full of crap

      Hear hear!! I just read the section on spectrum shortage in their report and the expected 50 fold increase is just stated in the text by Deloitte - no source, no accompanying workings, nothing. 50X increase by 2012 is widely aggressive and is far higher than even the very optimistic and often criticised Cisco forecasts

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Full of crap

      Well they forgot to be mindful of the Jesus factor, and now that he has returned, there will be a 666% reduction in wireless spectrum congestion.

      (Matthew 10:34) Do not think that I came to bring peace on Earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

      (Luke 19:27)" But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them--bring them here and kill them in front of me.'"

      Satan - who is a spirit of the air, gets inhaled with every breath.

  9. Christian Berger

    Actually... the spectral efficiency of LTE

    ...can be increased in multiple ways. So if you spend more on base stations, for example on base stations with adaptive antenna arrays, you can squeeze out a lot more (factor 100 or so) out of your spectrum. (Think of using lots of steerable directional antennas each one focused at a single user. You still get some crosstalk, but it's greatly reduced.)

    The point is, that's more expensive than sending a few lobbyists out and demanding more spectrum. Plus operators want to mess with your packets so they can sell you "better service". Saying that you can just take all that extra money you get and putting it into your infrastructure counters the idea that there is to much traffic on your network so you need to prioritize and charge extra for X and Y.

  10. Dazed and Confused

    Simple solution

    Ban YouTube.

    Your bandwidth troubles are over.

    Works a treat in my house anyway.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    With regards to NBN the government has somehow made this a black and white argument, and the media blindly follow.

    Fibre is absolutely essential in areas where we will experience spectrum saturation, that means relatively dense residential and commercial areas and most definitely any CBD.

    Move outside of that to regional areas (basically outside of any capital city) and fibre becomes a total waste of money. We can use LTE-a to cover a majority of citizens living outside of our capital cities and at a much lower cost.

    The Rudd government (not Gillard, she has no vision) should be commended for actually doing something about the broadband situation in Australia, however, NBN to the back o' Bourke is far too expensive and unnecessary.

    And I say this as someone who lives in a regional area, I would be 100% satisfied with good LTE-a, I wont complain about getting NBN but I sure as hell don't need it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Surely you jest.

      "Move outside of that to regional areas (basically outside of any capital city) and fibre becomes a total waste of money. We can use LTE-a to cover a majority of citizens living outside of our capital cities and at a much lower cost."

      I mean wireless is "not bad" but where I live, when everyone goes home at lunch time, and jumps on the net, the network grinds to a halt...

      You can set your clock by it.

      And as far as BIG data transfers go? Oh like I have to download 2+ Gig of system files? Ummmmm and how long is that going to take? Or watching movies or docco's over the net? Or I need to back up terror bites of data to the cloud?

      Or business's that need to move lots of data around?????

      Wireless is just fine if all your doing is checking emails and solo updates - and the kids are at school or asleep, the humidity isn't too high and the moisture in the buildings isn't soaking up the radio waves, or it's not raining, and the weather is OK etc.....

      Or some HUGE issue is going on and everyone in the district is on their mobile phone........

      Or you are more than X Km from the transceiver....... riding the cube root of appallingness.

      For convenience, and mobility, I like wireless very much, but for pure speed and reliability, I'd rather have fibre.

      While wireless is good, it really is.... but within fairly tight constraints and limitations.

      We need national and indeed global fibre connectivity.

  12. Andrew 73

    We are the network.

    Hack wifi boxes. Create an adhoc mesh network. Make VOIP calls. Balls to closed networks. You are a node. We are the network.

    1. Colin Millar

      Re: We are the network.

      Great idea - then I can get rid of my wifi box and just leech off everyone elses.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    nbn to the sticks

    no, instead they're going to launch a satellite at a cost of nearly $700m (which wasn't included in the original $43bn price tag.)

    when can we get rid of this clueless ginga and her pack of idiot yes men?

    1. Martin Budden Silver badge

      Re: nbn to the sticks

      1. Conroy is the one who's job it is to know about these things but is clueless.

      2. The massive price of the NBN is John Howard's fault: he's the idiot who sold off the national infrastructure so now using it has to be bought back at a huge loss.

      1. John Angelico

        Re: nbn to the sticks

        Fail right back at you -

        a) the selling of Telstra was a bi-partisan policy started by a faulty Davidson report in 1987

        b) the stupid Rudd/Gillard government (TSRGG(r)) was not simply buying back Telstra, but re-monopolising the network.

        TSRGG(r) - mainly Rudd and Conroy - invented the 43billion (without any plan behind it) to trump a modest but workable Coalition policy at the 2007 elections: Gigabit/Gigabyte fibre backbone upgrade plus FTTN over time in a network that allowed flexibility for new technologies.

        TSRRG(r) have been exposed in the latest Qld floods. The NBNCo network was out while mains power was out, but home connections were also out, unless people had standby gen sets.

        Copper cables (due to be ripped out under the NBN scheme) plus home handsets, resumed operation despite the street ducts being still flooded, as soon as power was restored to exchanges, and therefore could be transmitted along the copper.

  14. Robert Ramsay


  15. Martin Budden Silver badge

    Moar Wifi!

    Abundant wifi hotspots could solve this "problem".

    Here is an idea: carriers can stop adding more cell towers in cities and instead add wifi hotspots in high-people-density locations: surely it must be possible to have a system where all users of CarrierX connect automatically to all of CarrierX 's hotspots and get the data charged in the same way as data passing though a cell tower. It won't matter then if your phone/tablet happens to be near a rural/suburban cell tower or a town/city hotspot, your surfing experience is the same, and there's plenty of bandwidth.

    Or have I missed something?

  16. Graham Wilson

    It's obvious. We've known about the spectrum shortage for years!

    RF engineers and spectrum planners have known this for years! It just isn't possible to run LTE/4G and give everyone the full bandwidth of which these services are theoretically capable. Anyone who's involved in running the 'cellular show' who is not aware of this ought to be given the boot instantly.

    The solution is simple but implementing it may be harder:

    (a) Either fibre-to-the-premsis plus household WiFi wireless connection and or

    (b) WiFi or micro-cell wireless from the local street fibre.

    (c) All smartphones must have local WiFi/Bluetooth/micro-cell access in addition to normal cellular access.

    (d) Smartphones would automatically and preferentially first connect to the local WiFi/micro-cell services before connecting to the cellular network.

    (e) Regulators must insist that WiFi connections/access to the fibre be integral part of any cellular service/connection.

    As it is, on a megabyte-for-megabyte basis, wireless is already outrageously priced when compared to DSL services, so, if anything, prices cellular ought to fall. This will only happen if regulators/governments adopt sensible policies—and sensible policies should not involve allocating extra scarce spectrum unless strictly necessary.

    Shame the Greenies aren't aware that the radio spectrum environment is also an environmental issue (perhaps then governments would listen—as they no longer listen to engineers, only accountants).

  17. John Angelico

    Reminds me of the old modem days

    when it was declared "physically impossible" to exceed 2400baud, 9600baud, then 14,400baud on dial-up lines. We finally got through 28,800 and 56K (so-called) before other technologies kicked in.

    Oh, and just for nostalgia sake, I have actually used a 300 baud acoustic coupler on a telephone handset for real work. We occasionally had to tap the handset on the desk to shake up the carbon granules.

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