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Policy Implications in the Rise of Mobile Broadband and Heterogenous Network Access

Over the last few months, a growing consensus has emerged pointing to a dramatic change in the way people access the Internet.

In 2011, for the first time ever, worldwide annual demand for smart phones surpassed that of PCs, laptops and tablets combined. Then last month our Mobile Visual Networking Index (VNI) Update reported that global mobile data traffic is growing even faster than previously forecasted and will increase 18-fold over the next five years.

So by this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February, the ‘top of mind’ for network operators, government officials and device manufacturers was the dramatic accelerating impact that mobile data consumption will have on Internet access, networks and users.

When we launched the mobile VNI report on February 14, a panel of industry, academia and government experts glimpsed into the future of mobile broadband and related policy issues, with three key takeaways:

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Bringing Wired and Wireless Broadband Together

By Howard Baldwin, Contributing Columnist

Wireless bandwidth has been on my mind a lot recently. Computerworld recently published my article, Wireless Bandwidth: Are We Running Out of Room?, which led to a stint on NPR’s “To The Point” on the topic. But until I tuned into one of the latest Broadband Breakfast presentations, The Wired Home and Wireless Policy – Convergence Legislation and Consumer Adoption, I didn’t realize that I’d been thinking about wireless in a way that technology people are supposed to avoid: in a silo.

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How to Solve the Wireless Spectrum Puzzle

By Howard Baldwin, Contributing Columnist

An interesting battle over unlicensed wireless communication spectrum has been brewing in the U.S. over the last few weeks, one that pits advocates of open public access against advocates of licensing and private control.

Here are the highlights of the ongoing debate. In September, the FCC approved a spectrum test that could ultimately promulgate access using the white space between television channels. This method, known as “super Wi-Fi,” is said to allow the signal to travel further and still accommodate structural barriers. The test ran in Lake Mary, Fla., and concluded early in November. However, the FCC has not yet released results.

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A Vision of Interconnected Knowledge Societies

If you want to motivate people to break free from the current status-quo, then raising the bar of expectations — with a compelling vision, plus some bold goals and objectives — is certainly one approach to consider. The Broadband Commission for Digital Development has issued a challenge to world leaders, their top policymakers and other key stakeholders.

The following is their list of raised expectations:

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Securing the Mobile Experience Made Simpler

It is no longer a question of “if” your organization will face the new reality of mobile device proliferation, just an ever closer “how soon.” Users expect the network to enable trends like Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and they aren’t just using smartphones and tablets to be more productive, they are falling in love with them. For businesses, simply allowing access isn’t the answer. It’s a question of relevant, secure access across the entire network, while protecting corporate assets and delivering an optimal user experience. Cisco focuses on exactly that -- how to enable a simple and secure mobility experience, with a consistent end-to-end architecture across wired, wireless and VPN access.

As a cornerstone of this wired-wireless access architecture, the Cisco Identity Services Engine (ISE) has already been helping customers like Whittier Union High School, San Antonio Water System and BlueWater Communications Group apply consistent security across the entire network through a centralized, single policy source.

Whittier Union High School District, a California high school district serving more than 13,600 students, was facing the challenge of mobile devices. Both faculty and students were bringing their personal devices on campus, many for educational apps and tools.

“It’s becoming increasingly critical to provide employees, students, and visitors access to our network and extensive educational resources given the growing expectations of our tech-savvy population,” stated Karen Yeh, Director of Information Technology, Whittier Union High School District.

Whittier needed a way to apply differentiated policy across their student and staff populations, somehow managing access for both personal and corporate devices, all without increasing IT resources. Karen called Cisco, and two weeks later her team was deploying the Cisco ISE, implementing a single point of security policy for their networks across wired, wireless and VPN. Considering that Richard Nixon, the 37th president of the US went to Whittier High School, the flexible network access enabled by Cisco ISE may be empowering the next generation of leaders, scientist or artists. But, mobile devices aren’t confined to education. San Antonio Water System, a public utility owned by the city of San Antonio, is seeing surprisingly similar issues.

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