On two occasions, once in the 1990s, and again more recently, this blog hinted that Western governments needed to make massive investments in high speed broadband networks with the economic benefits this provides, just as they built the highways, autobahns and motorways in the 1950s and 60s that we take for granted today. The private sector would never be able to deliver fast enough or consistently.
Time and time again over the last decade or so the evidence has continued to pile up that not doing this early on is coming back to huant us. Never mind the scenario discussed in this article – today, the iPhone is a prime example of a device that is technologically ahead of the networks it relies upon. Providing a fast, slick and robust interface, the iPhone (and most other wireless devices) grind to a halt the moment you try to do anything bandwidth intensive on them – such as streaming video – in particular during waking hours! And that is not Apple’s fault, but that of the governments, who rather than invest in the networks, hit them for billions of dollars for spectrum licenses. What where they thinking? (They weren’t.)
What they should have done is what governments do during a time of war or in general with the military – put bids out to tender and provided the money and resources required to meet minimum specification, performance objectives and milestones. Wireless leaders such as Motorola, Ericsson and Samsung could have been installing 4g/LTE base stations across the US, Europe and elsewhere years ago – providing our economies with a fast, slick and robust network in time for today’s speedy gadgets.
But they didn’t, so we are still driving sports cars on windy country lanes – and no, 7MBs HSDPA doesn’t cut it, nor does attempting to get your gadget to logon to the flaky WiFi network in a coffee shop you have rushed into in order to try to download that massive PDF.
Fight back club: Bring down the networks by consuming as much bandwith hungry content as you can until someone realises that information technology economies require a seamless digital highway. Go on, wake up your government today by stressing your air time provider until they cry!
Why are we in this mess? Greed. Did anyone really believe the private sector would deliver? Look at the trains!
Why do I hint that the West is stupid? Because we find it difficult to do things properly unless giving whatever it is a massive focused investment – at the last moment. Eastern nations such as Korea and Singapore have proven better at long term thinking and already benefit from a robust digital infrastructure that was built when we were all on dial-up. But we do do war well. 😉