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Two Groundbreaking Decisions that Make More Spectrum Available for Broadband and Wi-Fi

The FCC made two groundbreaking decisions today to put more radio spectrum to work delivering broadband connectivity to consumers — one which will improve 5 GHz spectrum for Wi-Fi and the second that makes more licensed cellular spectrum available for wireless broadband.  Taken together, these two decisions represent a meaningful down-payment on the 500 MHz of spectrum that the FCC said was necessary to meet the growing demand for spectrum in its 2010 National Broadband Plan.

The decision on 5 GHz spectrum is significant action that will allow consumers to use the full capabilities of the next generation of Wi-Fi technology.   In effect, the FCC has eliminated the “speed bump” that impeded the full use of the 5150-5250 MHz band, and paved over two “potholes” that existed in the 5470-5725 and 5725-5850 MHz bands – one 50 MHz wide and one 25 MHz wide.  As a result of these and other technical rule changes, the FCC has accelerated the ability of consumers to get the most out of new, Gigabit Wi–Fi technologies that are increasingly embedded in their smartphones, tablets and TVs.  This will make it easier for all of us to consume a wide range of content on our mobile devices, most notably high definition video without frustrating lags or delays.    

The second decision – which establishes auction rules for paired, AWS-3 spectrum — is a true milestone in U.S. spectrum policy. Two years ago, it was anybody’s guess whether this spectrum could be re-purposed for commercial use.  Despite the fact that this band is harmonized for mobile broadband globally, in the U.S., it is populated by many federal spectrum systems.  But over the past year, the mobile industry, the Commerce Department, the Department of Defense, White House and Executive Branch agencies generally, along with tremendous leadership from the committees of jurisdiction in Congress, each rolled up their sleeves to solve this very tricky spectrum transition problem.  Now it’s the FCC’s turn to complete the work by hosting a spectrum auction for this very valuable piece of spectrum. 

These decisions must be set against the backdrop of how consumers are taking advantage of mobile broadband connectivity.  Simply put, consumers are devouring their data “bytes” on an unprecedented scale.  Cisco projects that on licensed mobile spectrum, consumers will generate 600,000,000,000,000 bytes of data/month (that’s 0.6 exabytes) this year in the United States.   By 2018, we’ll be chomping through 2,700,000,000,000,000 per month  (or 2.7 exabytes).  And that’s less than half the data consumed by your mobile enabled devices – those same devices are generating even more traffic on Wi-Fi networks in your home, office or on the go.  Our devices are becoming more powerful with each new model, our networks are becoming faster, the number of connections is rising, and video, already the dominate application, continues to grow in importance. 

Why then are these two decisions groundbreaking?  

Because they both expose the reality that our previous decisions as a country about how to use radio spectrum have to evolve given the new marketplace realities.  

Nearly all Americans today use mobile broadband and Wi-Fi on a daily basis.  Whether 5 GHz Wi-Fi or AWS-3, these bands are critical because in both cases, an enormous ecosystem of manufacturers, innovators, and service providers exists offering transformative technology to billions of consumers around the globe. Make no mistake – these two bands do not represent a bet that an innovative new technology with spring forth in the wake of an FCC decision.  The technologies are already here, and now we need to catch up.

As soon as the rules are final, and in the case of AWS-3 the auction closes and spectrum is awarded, Wi-Fi and mobile use of the bands is ready to explode.  


Statement of Cisco VP, Intellectual Property, Dan Lang on Senate Judiciary Committee Consideration of Patent Reform

By beginning consideration of patent reform legislation, the Senate Judiciary Committee today took a significant step toward ending the abusive patent assertion entity business model.  Yet, there is still a great deal of hard work necessary to get a strong, bipartisan agreement across the finish line.

Significantly, we appreciate Chairman Pat Leahy’s statement today describing the work being done to bring together his bill and major elements of the bills sponsored by Senators John Cornyn and Orrin Hatch.

We know that members on both sides of the aisle are working in good faith to forge a bipartisan compromise.  This includes major contributions and leadership from Chairman Leahy and Senator Cornyn, as well as Senators Dianne Feinstein, Chuck Grassley, Chuck Schumer, Orrin Hatch, Amy Klobuchar, Mike Lee, Richard Blumenthal and other members of the committee.  With this level of commitment and engagement on the issue, we are looking forward to a strong bipartisan bill

The problem of abusive patent litigation is large and growing.  Nearly 60 percent of new patent lawsuits are being filed by patent assertion entities, up from 25 percent in 2007.   These are speculators manipulating the patent system to shake down business of all sizes — from innovators like Cisco to tens of thousands of small businesses around the country, including Cisco customers.    

So we need a bill that ends the patent scam business model.  Patent reform should include strong fee shifting that can’t be gamed by speculators hiding behind shell corporations; pleading standards that force plaintiffs to investigate their claims before suing; and limits on expensive discovery fishing expeditions.   Such reforms would provide a level of accountability and transparency that simply does not exist today.

At a time when it difficult for Democrats and Republicans to find common ground on many issues, patent litigation reform is one area where a bipartisan agreement is possible, and indeed, within reach. Cisco stands ready to work with the Committee in any way possible to help find a lasting solution to this significant problem.

Cisco Supports U.S. Department of Commerce Decision to Transition Internet Management Functions

On Friday, March 14, the US Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced its intent to transition key Internet domain name functions to the global multi-stakeholder community.  As the first step, NTIA is requesting the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to convene global stakeholders and develop a proposal to transition the current role played by NTIA in the coordination of the Internet’s domain name system (DNS).

This is a significant milestone in the transition of Internet governance to a global multi-stakeholder model, and Cisco welcomes this development.  We applaud the NTIA for seeking to complete the final phase of the privatization of DNS management, as outlined by the U.S. Government in 1997. Cisco has long supported an open and innovative multi-stakeholder Internet governance process and this next step in its evolution.

NTIA has outlined a powerful process for the move towards full privatization and globalization of DNS management.  It is based upon the recognition that the ecosystem of organizations, groups and individuals which make up the multi-stakeholder Internet governance community is mature and robust and can stand on its own.

At the same time, NTIA has outlined a transition designed to ensure participation by the entire Internet community, and that will continue to support the open and multi-stakeholder nature of the Internet.  Key to this process will be the continued strong collaboration between ICANN, the Regional Internet Registries who allocate addresses, and the IETF that specifies Internet standards.

We look forward to working with the Internet community stakeholders to make this transition as successful as possible.


The New Spectrum Caucus: Bringing Focus to an Unseen, Indispensable Tool

Most Americans don’t know it, but radio spectrum has become an indispensable tool in our daily lives.  Spectrum is the invisible link between our smart phones, tablets, laptops, fitbits, and other mobile devices to the Internet.  It carries the video, voice, text and rich media that has transformed the world around us.

Recognizing this reality, Representatives Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Brett Guthrie (R-KY) have formed a new Spectrum Caucus to focus attention in Congress and around the country about the vital need for more spectrum for broadband.  No doubt about it, radio spectrum is a hot topic on Capitol Hill. Here’s why:

  • The recently released Cisco Mobile Visual Networking Index forecasts  that by 2018, consumers will be sending 2.7 exobytes/month over cellular networks, nearly eight times the data sent over US mobile networks in 2013. That type of traffic growth has a serious impact on networks and the potential for network congestion – unless more spectrum can be found.
  • Just as consumers are loading the licensed airwaves with video and other apps, they are also loading up Wi-Fi networks.  Demand for Wi-Fi networks is rising both for use in the home and enterprise, and to offload mobile traffic. By 2018, consumers, using  devices equipped with both Wi-Fi and mobile capability, will offload 64% of their data  to Wi-Fi.  Wi-Fi is  an essential access technology, and also requires radio spectrum.
  • Why is this all important?  A study for GSM by Deloitte and using Cisco demand forecasts  found that a doubling of mobile data traffic leads to an increase in GDP per capita of 0.5%.   Creating wireless connectivity that enables wireless data usage grows economies.  That’s huge.
  • For Wi-Fi, a Cisco-sponsored study by Plum Consulting  showed that just the value of increasing Wi-Fi spectrum for mobile offloading, along the benefit of de-congesting dense Wi-Fi environments, would can be valued in the billions.

By no means does this represent the universe of spectrum issues.  Growth in Machine to Machine uses and the Internet of Everything represent an emerging category of spectrum uses.  The recently released Department of Defense Spectrum Strategy  demonstrates that our Defense spectrum needs are growing and changing also.

Every member of Congress uses radio spectrum every day, whenever they reach for a smartphone or use Wi-Fi.  As do all their constituents.  Everyone needs to think about how we can be better stewards of our radio spectrum.  So let me thank Representatives Matsui and Guthrie for forming this new Caucus and bringing focus to this critical matter.

Statement of Mark Chandler on Need for Patent System that Rewards Innovation and Discourages Speculation

I’ve commented here about the imperative to return to a patent system that incents and rewards innovation and discourages the speculators and opportunists who are using litigation leverage and bad patents to extract money from the productive elements of the economy.  That’s why we urge the Senate to follow the House’s overwhelming, bipartisan vote to limit patent rent-seeking by these financiers.  We also welcome today’s White House initiative to drive better patent quality from the get-go by making sure applications that don’t meet patentability requirements aren’t granted.   I am pleased to announce that Cisco will participate.

I once worked for a giant company whose employees used to joke, “If only we knew what we know.”  Well, nowhere is that saying more true than in the search for prior art to determine if a patent should be granted. To do the most effective job of reviewing new patent filings, the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) needs ready access to relevant prior art so that patents aren’t improperly approved just because our superb but chronically overworked patent examiners have no practical way of finding it.  This is especially important in rapidly developing fields where important advances aren’t captured in patent filings or conventional publications.  

To improve the quality of patents in networking technology, Cisco is today committing to assembling our own public product documentation, converting it to electronic form, and making it readily searchable by examiners.  We hope that our peers will join in this effort and help greatly broaden the scope of searchable prior art in the information technology field.  Patent prior art search is an ideal opportunity to put “crowdsourcing” to work.  

Additionally, we will continue to electronically publish many invention submissions that are not internally approved to be patent filings so that these too can be used by examiners.  Another important aspect of this effort: continuing to provide examiners access to senior Cisco technical talent in the form of training on current technology and the prior art in the networking field.    

As the owner of over 10,000 US patents and a frequent target of assertions of bad patents, we have a responsibility to work to improve the system with the tools we have.  And we will keep doing so.  When our patent examiners can say, “We know what we know”, we’ll be one more step toward a patent system that meets the Founders’ goal of truly “promoting progress in science and useful arts.”