I participated as a panelist in a session entitled, "Economists: Do They Have a Place?," at the Patents in Telecoms and the Internet of Things conference at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. on November 10, 2017. This article is substantially my remarks in that conference panel session. Before my remarks, Stephen Haber of Stanford University said that I had posed the defining question for the entire conference in an audience question-and-answer exchange the previous day. It had perturbed me to hear a panel speaker mischaracterize the communications standards as platforms of preexisting technologies upon which Internet of Things (IoT) innovation will occur. In response, I said that communications standards are rich in technology innovation and patented intellectual property.
As I explained in IP Finance last week, following President Trump's blocking of Broadcom's hostile bid to acquire Qualcomm, by remaining independent the cellular technology leader will be able to maintain its long-term commitment to high levels of R&D investment (at 23 percent of sales recently), most significantly including that in 5G communications standard-essential IP.
The broadband performance and economics of cellular with 4G and 5G is making it possible for many of us to do without any wired connection at all - already including those who, on average, stream up to an hour of video per day. Nevertheless, most homes will continue to need fixed connections; but 5G fixed-wireless access will serve many of these.
At a conference entitled Patents in Telecoms & the Internet of Things, at George Washington University in the District of Columbia last week, I was perturbed to hear a speaker mischaracterizing the communications standards as platforms of preexisting technologies upon which IoT innovation will occur. Major research and development investments are being made in communications technologies and standards to satisfy the anticipated demands of 5G and IoT. In fact, these investments, with significant innovations resulting already, are largely a leap of faith in advance of hoped-for IoT applications development and proof of demand for these.
Consumers are only beginning to use LTE in unlicensed spectrum. So far chatter has mostly been about operator trials, commercial chipsets and sales of devices to seed the market before anyone is to be able to use the new service feature. Nevertheless, the commercial impact will be quite dramatic within a few years.
Technology innovation by chip, device and equipment vendors plus intense competition among national oligopolies of mobile network operators has improved cellular performance and reduced costs to the enormous benefit of consumers. Meanwhile, recent financial gains in the mobile ecosystem are largely accruing to Silicon Valley's tech titans including Apple, Alphabet, Facebook and Netflix. The massive network investments required for 5G may not be forthcoming if this imbalance persists.
Regulators in many countries have asserted that setting asymmetric mobile termination rates (MTRs) between the incumbent mobile telephony operator and its smaller rivals is an efficacious means by which to help entrants attain efficient scale. We investigate empirically the efficacy of this policy experiment using data from a global sample of 34 countries from 1996 through 2014. We estimate a model that relates operators' long-run market shares to initial entry conditions and the degree of asymmetry among MTRs using an instrumental variables (IV) strategy. The estimates imply that a high degree of asymmetry among MTRs lowers an entrant's long-run market share by roughly 4 percentage points compared with a regime of symmetric MTRs, and the effect is roughly constant across market penetration levels. Furthermore, mobile operators tend to perform better when entering markets with higher levels of concentration and lower levels of market penetration. Our novel findings cast doubt on the efficacy of imposing asymmetric MTRs as a means to achieve greater equality of competitive outcomes. Our findings inform the larger body of theoretical literature on the pricing of interconnection and network access.
In 2005, Ofcom, then telecommunications regulator in the United Kingdom, implemented functional separation of British Telecom plc (BT), separating its wholesale and retail services. BT established a division within the company, Openreach, to provide equal access to its local access network and backhaul products. The tenth anniversary of this regulatory and corporate experiment is an appropriate moment to ask whether functionally separating Openreach from BT benefited consumers. We find that Openreach's creation generated short-run consumer benefits in the form of lower prices but also led to negative long-run effects, which outweighed the short-term price reduction.
As part of the Modification of Final Judgment (MFJ) that implemented the divestiture of the Bell operating companies (BOCs) from AT&T on January 1, 1984, the BOCs were forbidden to carry telephone calls from one local access and transport area LATA) to another. Although the Telecommunications Act of 1996 superseded the MFJ, it retained the BOCs' interLATA prohibition and established, in section 271, a process – involving each state public utilities commission, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the Department of Justice (DOJ), acting on a state-by-state basis – by which the BOCs could earn regulatory approval to enter the interLATA market within the regions in which they provide local exchange service. As of September 1, 2002, the BOCs had received section 271 authorizations to provide in-region interLATA service in fifteen states.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 sets forth extensive provisions to unbundle the local telecommunications network to encourage the development of a competitive market for local telephone.