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Super Bowls and Royal Weddings – Betting on a Sure Thing

What do the Super Bowl and Kate and William’s royal wedding have in common?  Both involve Big Ben, absolutely absurd “proposition” bets (How long will it take Christina Aguilera to sing the National Anthem? What color hat will the Queen be wearing?), and each will attract enormous  worldwide audiences.

One other thing:  it’s a sure thing that more of us will watch these events on tablets, laptops, smart phones and other mobile devices than ever before.

Today’s release of Cisco’s 2011 Visual Network Index Global Mobile Data Forecast confirms this:  we have an insatiable appetite for mobile devices and the applications that those devices deliver.

Here’s what the data reveal:   despite the global economic woes in many regions, growth in demand for mobile data has held steady or increased.   Nothing is stopping that growth.  Not offloading mobile traffic to fixed networks via Wi-Fi or Femto cells. Not tiered pricing plans offered by mobile carriers.  Growth projections may adjust year to year, but the direction is clearly up, up, and away.

Consider this:

  • By 2015, there will be more than 5.6 billion handheld or personal devices and more than 1.5 billion machine to machine devices.
  • During that same period, global mobile traffic will outgrow fixed data traffic by 3.3 times to 75 exabytes annually (compare: 19 billion DVDs – that’s a lot of movies!)
  • Mobile video, in all kinds of applications, will make up 2/3 of mobile data traffic in five years.

All over the globe, we want computing power in our hands and on our laps, and once we have it, we want more of it and we use more of it – all driving more packets over mobile networks, which themselves will become faster over the next five years.

The phenomenon is truly global. From countries like India (Compound Annual Growth Rate CAGRof 158% for the forecast period) and Mexico (CAGR of 131%), to the Middle East and Africa (regionally, a CAGR of 129%).

No corner of the globe is exempt so long as there’s some way to get those batteries charged.  By 2015, Cisco projects the world will be consuming 6.3 exabytes/month of mobile data.   In the US, we tapped, clicked, talked, and watched about 16.4m gigabits/month of mobile data in 2009. In 2015, that number grows to 914.6 million gigabits/month – a CAGR of 83%.

Governments and regulators around the world would be well served to heed the example of US policymakers, who are actively on the hunt for new spectrum to meet the rising demand for mobile data.  The US FCC and the Obama Administration want to identify, and repurpose, 500 MHz of spectrum for wireless broadband use by 2020, and deliver the first 300 MHz of that total by 2015.  Congress is already at work to provide needed tools, such as voluntary incentive auctions, to help deliver radio spectrum that is the lifeblood of mobile networks.

It’s a safe bet we’re going to need more radio spectrum to keep up with demand.  At least for those of us who care about football highlights and Kate Middleton’s wedding dress.

Standards Play a Vital Role in Fueling Innovation

On Tuesday morning I was honored to represent Cisco in a roundtable discussion sponsored by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) about the role of the federal government in standards.  (Watch the webcast here.)

Standards play a vital role in fueling innovation, promoting competition, lowering technology costs and accelerating market growth – particularly when they are the result of an industry-led, consensus-based open, and transparent process, and voluntarily-adopted in the market.

Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke opened  the event, reminding us of “…the tremendous impact standards can have on U.S. competitiveness, innovation, job creation, and – ultimately – our standard of living.” U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra then inspired attendees by stressing the importance of open dialogue and public participation in government.  Phil Weiser, White House National Economic Council Senior Advisor on Technology and Innovation, moderated the panel discussion on what role the U.S. Government should and shouldn’t play in the domestic and international standards arenas.  And Commerce Undersecretary and NIST leader Pat Gallagher reiterated NIST’s commitment to driving effective standards development for Smart Grid and other initiatives.

I focused on three main areas where the U.S. Government has a vital role to play and supporting and defending U.S. interests in standards:

The US Government can serve as convenor of industry-led standards efforts, as currently demonstrated by the leadership that the NIST has provided in the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel process. By creating an open platform for participation of over 1,500 entities – from utilities, academia, regulatory agencies, ICT solutions providers and the like – NIST serves an invaluable role in shepherding and accelerating the identification of interoperability standards that are essential in building a secure, robust smart grid capable of meeting this country’s current and future energy needs. As part of that effort, we believe that NIST could go even further in giving preference to standards that are developed in standards-development organizations that meet four key tests:

  • Allowing negotiation of royalty rates at the time a standard is being adopted, rather than after everyone has accepted it;
  • Setting the value of IP based on the centrality of its contribution to the standard;
  • Valuing intellectual property based on the available alternatives at the time the standard is adopted, and;
  • Not utilizing injunctions except where a prospective licensee refuses to a pay an objectively- determined reasonable and nondiscriminatory (RAND) royalty.

To be clear, we’re not suggesting that NIST would mandate a standard itself, rather that it would set a framework of transparency in the standards-development process.

After nearly 12 years since its last revision, the USG could also consider updating OMB Circular No. A-119, which establishes policies on Federal use and development of voluntary consensus standards and on conformity assessment activities. The Circular could be revised further to give preference to the federal government’s use of products and solutions that are standardized in SDOs which observe the four-part test: ex ante negotiation, value based on centrality of contribution, valuation prior to adoption and avoidance of injunctions.

The US Government may also want to consider its role as defender of U.S. competitive interests abroad. While certain U.S. trading partners appear to use standards and the standards development process to create technical barriers to trade that favor domestic industries and jeopardize American intellectual property rights, the US Government should consider using all of its available policy and political tools to promote and safeguard U.S. interests, including the launch of legal proceedings in the World Trade Organization.

President Obama has said that American industry does best when the is a level playing field, and on Tuesday night he spoke of the importance of innovation in his State of the Union address. Cisco will work in partnership with the U.S. and other supportive governments to facilitate and ensure a level playing field by encouraging industry-led, open, transparent standards development processes, and their voluntary adoption.

Addressing Security Concerns: The source code conundrum

magnifying_glass_teudimu_01A while back, I blogged on the topic of Sovereignty and National Security. Since then, much has happened, most notably the moves by some governments to require access to source code on the grounds of national security before a foreign product can be imported and used in the country. Others have insisted for products to be manufactured locally, or that intellectual know-how of the product be transferred as part of the conditions of permitting a product to be procured. These are variations of the recurring theme of requiring local control to ensure national security and to protect sovereignty against foreign influence.

One cannot deny that there are very real security concerns and threats faced by governments today that need to be addressed more adequately. Even consumers are rightly worried about security of their data and personal information, especially as more cloud computing services become available.

Some argue that proprietary products are ‘secretive’, and that they rely on the customers’ faith in the vendor that the products operate securely. Others say that it is much easier for attackers to uncover vulnerabilities when they have access to the source code, rather than trying to compromise a “black-box”.

Who is right? Is the disclosure of source code directly correlated to product security? Is there a better way to ensure security without resorting to excluding the use of foreign manufactured products?

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Cisco urges Californians to vote No on Prop 23

Californians know how to invest in the future. Believing in our collective ability to drive towards positive change, Cisco urges Californians to vote No on Prop 23.

For decades, California has led the way when it comes to addressing global warming in the US with a proven track record of not only achieving impressive results, but also stimulating investment in new businesses and technologies creating thousands of new jobs. From California’s imposition of stricter-than-federal tailpipe emissions regulations to its global leadership in increasing energy efficiency per unit of GDP growth, Californians know how to address societal challenges in ways that increase economic prosperity. By investing in the future, not living in the past, California can and should do both.

Doing both means that you we look at challenges as opportunities, you evaluate threats by thinking about them differently. Doing both rejects “zero sum” thinking in favor of collaborative decision-making. It is inherently optimistic, as I believe most Californians are. So when some assert that California can not afford to carry through on its climate commitments without losing jobs, I can’t help but ponder the possibilities of doing both.

On the ballot in November, Proposition 23 would roll-back California’s greenhouse gas law (AB 32), low-carbon fuel standard, and rules requiring utilities to source 33% of their electricity from renewables by 2020.
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A Mobile Broadband Day in Washington

Significant news today from the federal agencies whose job it is to find 500 MHz of radio spectrum needed for the booming mobile broadband market, 300 MHz of that needed in the next five years.

First, the National Information and Telecommunications Administration in the Department of Commerce announced that it would soon be releasing a report that will identify 115 MHz of spectrum available for commercial broadband in the next 5 years:  1675-1710 MHz and 3550-3650 MHz.   NTIA also said it would continue to examine 20 MHz of spectrum on both ends of the 4200-4400 MHz band for possible use, as well as potentially relocating federal users at 1755-1780 MHz.

Meanwhile, across town, the Federal Communications Commission hosted a day-long Spectrum Summit.  At that Summit, the FCC released the results of a new study:  “Mobile Broadband:  The Benefits of Additional Spectrum.”  I’m pleased that Cisco figures prominently in that study since the FCC used Cisco’s own Visual Networking Index demand data in evaluating the future demand curve for mobile broadband. The FCC’s study concludes that the demand growth will outpace both technology’s ability to become more efficient, and carriers’ ability to add more cell sites, so that by 2015, we’ll need 300 MHz of new spectrum to meet demand.   If anything, the FCC’s prediction may be very conservative.

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