Paper review – Open Wireless vs. Licensed Spectrum: Evidence from Market Adoption Yochai Benkler


The paper Open Wireless vs. Licensed Spectrum: Evidence from Market Adoption by Yochai Benkler is in draft form but it is very significant and worthy of a review even at this stage.

This blog is not a review but rather a list of some of the significant points I found in this paperIn this post, the emphasis is mine and I hope that I am able to convey the ideas in this excellent paper!

My own bias leans to Open systems ex – Did you ever hear of a spectrum/bandwidth crunch in Boise Idaho?  And also my PhD research on Optimising resilience of remote monitoring medical devices over white space networks

-       The paper addresses the long standing spectrum policy question surrounding how much of the future of wireless innovation will depend on exclusively-licensed spectrum, allocated by auction and traded in secondary markets, relative to how much will utilize bands in which open (unlicensed, dynamic frequency sharing, license-by-rule etc.) wireless systems are permitted.

-       Yochai benkler reviews evidence from eight wireless markets: mobile broadband; wireless healthcare; smart grid communications; inventory management; access control; mobile payments; fleet management; and secondary markets in spectrum.

-       He finds that markets are adopting open wireless strategies in mission-critical applications, in many cases more so than they are building on licensed strategies.

-       Eighty percent of wireless healthcare; seventy percent of smart grid communications; and forty to ninety percent of mobile broadband data to smartphones and tablets use open wireless strategies.


-       There are two alternatives within the spectrum policy debate:  spectrum property,” seeks to create markets in exclusive spectrum licenses, initially allocated by auction.

-        The primary other alternative is “unlicensed wireless,” “open wireless,” or “spectrum commons,” would enable device vendors and service providers to develop markets in sophisticated equipment and network services built on them to deliver reliable connectivity without possessing an exclusive right to transmit.

-       A study published in March 2011 by the National Research Council’s Computer Science and Telecommunications Board explained, that if a thousand transmitters transmit, the “waves” don’t destroy each other; no information is destroyed. The only thing that happens is that it becomes harder and harder for receivers to figure out who is saying what to whom as more transmitters operate next to each other.

-       The limitation, or the real economic scarcity, is computation and the (battery) power to run calculations. The regulatory model of command and control was created at a time when machine computation was practically impossible. Exclusive licensing was a way to use regulation to limit the number of transmitters in a band, so as to make it possible for very stupid devices to understand who was saying what.

-       The economic models on which auctions are based were developed in the 1950s and 1960s, when computation was still prohibitively expensive. Practically, thinking about “spectrum” as a scarce commodity still made sense in that era.

-       As computation becomes dirt cheap, the assumption that spectrum is a stable, scarce resource is no longer the most useful way of looking at optimizing wireless communications systems.  The question is more: which configuration of very smart equipment, wired and wireless infrastructure, network algorithms, and data processing will allow the largest number of people and machines to communicate what they want, when they want it, where they want to be?

-       While these market segments caution against painting open wireless as ultimately becoming the sole solution, the relatively large role of open strategies suggests that we may need to reverse our orientation from one that assumes that licensed and auctioned spectrum is the core, and open wireless a peripheral complement, to one that sees open strategies as the core, with important residual roles for licensed services, however allocated.

-       Open Wireless Allocations Foster Open Wireless Innovation on an Internet model – A review of the solutions developed in the varied markets considered here suggests that the core to the success of open wireless is its innovation model. Innovation in open spaces is built on the same principle as the Internet: freedom to operate around a set of minimal standards. No one needs special permission to deploy and try out an innovation that uses open wireless strategies. Innovation in the licensed space operates on the principle of the old telephone system innovation. One can only innovate in collaboration with the system owner.

The paper then reviews the domains – I include key ideas from two of them (Smart Grid and Health care)

 Smart Grids: How inadequate levels of open wireless allocations can hobble wireless innovation

-       The smart grid communications market offers a particularly crisp example of how the failure to provide adequate open wireless allocations can hobble wireless innovation.

-       American and European markets have developed along very different trajectories, with the U.S. enjoying far greater and faster deployment of wireless smart grid communications systems, and Europe largely remaining with powerline communications solutions.

-       The difference is not that Europe’s cellular carriers aren’t interested in serving smart grid markets; they are, and they do.

-       The difference is that Europe has no usable open wireless spectrum below 1GHz, and constrained availability in the 2.4GHz bands, and, as a consequence, no significant open wireless solutions deployed.


-       The size and social significance the U.S. healthcare sector make it an extremely important market for wireless technologies. The promise of telemedicine, patient monitoring and care have long been touted as an important dimension for the benefits of broadband and mobile connectivity.

-       A September 2011 analysis finds about 80% of the healthcare wireless market is served by a range of open wireless technologies; only 17% by licensed, cellular technologies, primarily for phones and smartphones.

-       CardioNet, for example, uses open 900MHz communications to communicate from a patient’s pacemaker to their mobile device, and then a licensed-spectrum cellular network to communicate irregularities to a monitoring center. Designs based on this model are common in cardiac monitoring: open wireless does the monitoring work, WiFi the preferred offloading pathway where available, but cellular networks offer the critical pathway of last resort where WiFi is unavailable to communicate the results to monitoring healthcare professionals



-       The evidence from the most dynamic and critical markets in wireless communications suggests that open wireless technologies have been underrated in the regulatory calculus.

-       The primary way in which open wireless policy contributed to the development of wireless infrastructure is to harness an Internet model of innovation in the wireless space, instead of depending exclusively on an older, telecommunications-carrier model of innovation.

-       The experience of the past two decades strongly suggests that, however scrappy and uncertain Internet innovations may seem at first by comparison to the highly-engineered models of the telcos, these innovations quickly catch up and surpass their competitors.

Apps for smart cities – still looking for some speakers

Note – we have had an overwhelming response to the event. We are not looking for speakers for Amsterdam any more but we plan to hold the same event at other venues. Please contact me at ajit.jaokar at to stay in touch

We had a great response to the apps for smart cities event – but we are still looking for some speakers. We take a specific approach to the idea of apps for smart cities as we outline below

A quick synopsis:
Date : March 29 at the  RAI (one of Amsterdam’s largest venues). The event is a part of series of related events on March (27-30) at the  The ‘anchor’ events on these days are intertraffic) – which relates to traffic management and Cevitts which relates to charging of electric vehicles. The apps for smart cities will be in the and held at the RAI at the same time as Intertraffic and Cevitts
Who we are looking for: We are looking for innovators/speakers who are working on some really cool applications. These should broadly conform to the idea of ‘apps for smart cities’ + themes elaborated here. We are interested in having speakers who are building/making apps. We can fund hotels and flights in most cases for speakers


Pricing is free for developers: for other tickets please contact me at the email address below. Since the event is also cross promoted with other events on the day, we expect the tickets will sell out very soon.

Booths : We have some space for booths demos. Please contact me at address below

Sponsorship: We are already grateful for the support from organizations and also from various bodies in Amsterdam including the City of Amsterdam. However, we welcome sponsors. Please contact me at address below

What are apps for smart cities? - Apps for smart cities could be defined as: Apps for Smart city  =  Intelligent places + Data + Mobile apps + Community + Services = City as a platform

Thus, Smart city applications are similar to conventional mobile applications, but with the following additions:

-      Apps for smart cities would include hardware – typically open source hardware – which enables ‘intelligent data’ spots in         the city

-      The apps are typically oriented towards empowerment of citizens and to enabling Smart city applications

-      Apps for smart cities could use many existing and new mobile technologies including augmented reality, Android and other platforms but they also include hardware technologies like ArduinoBUG,Funnel  ,  Gainer  ,  Make controller    , Wiring ,  Sun SPOTs   Pinguino  , Firmata  and others

-      They could also integrate with Smart city initiatives from existing vendors and new vendors like Cisco, Pachube,  IBM and others

-      Community would be an important part of apps for Smart cities

Themes (apps based on these themes)

-       Smart Manufacturing, New production tools(home produced food, energy, micro manufacturing, 3D printing)

-       Collaboration / sharing of resources via the Internet

-       Urban farming

-       Apps relating to Open data

-       Apps relating to Smart energy

-       Apps relating to Smart transportation

-       Smart health

-       Technology(especially related to open source hardware and s/w)

-       Culture(hacker movement)

-       Sustainability

-       And Art

-       If you think there are any more themes we should include please send me an email ajit.jaokar at

My blog is below which gives a lot of information about the ethos of the event



Mobile national days – London programme



As usual, this year also we are supporting Mobile national days from the m-days team. The event is now located at multiple venues in Europe. The London program below ..



The Programme

Mobile Personal Internet with Focus on Germany

The Mobile National Breakfast in London starts the day in a relaxed atmosphere with a breakfast and food for thoughts. Learn more about your opportunities with free access to the insights from key players in mobile entertainment, social media, advertising, marketing and payments from Germany.

Basic data: Mobile National Day, London

Topic: Personal Internet in Europe“
Target groups: mobile, media, content, commerce, retail and social media (70-100 attendees)
Date and time:  March 27th 2012
breakfast from 09.00 to 13.00



Guest post – The impulse economy – by Gary Schwartz



This is a guest post by Gary Schwartz about his new book - The impulse economy 

Writing the book, The Impulse Economy, which addresses mobile shopping and mobile commerce, is similar to trying to work out who is winning a battle when you are stuck in the trenches and watching the missiles fly overhead. There is so much noise on a daily bases it seems improbable write a definitive book on the subject.

However the core thesis is universal and something that I believe strongly  the mobile industry needs to content with:  how to effectively drive impulse mobile consumption.

The shopper is natively an impulse shopper. They buy in what retailer call “5 by 5″ which is five seconds by five foot. They may write out lengthy shopping list and do hours or research on products but in the store, 80 percent of their basket is full of products bought on impulse.

The phone is now a shopping aid and it can help the shopper be more effective impulse buyers or it can fail and inhibit shopping behavior. This is the industry challenge. The retailer that manages to engage effectively with this new shopper will win.

What should the reader take away from the book?

There is a disconnect in retail. The shopper is becoming faster and the store is becoming slower. The shopper is proactively looking for new phones, new applications, new ways to search and buy effectively.  Just look at the power of the new devices that the consumer walks into the mall with:

The AGC (Apollo Guidance Computer) that sent the first person to the moon had 2kb memory, 32kb of read only memory (storage), CPU 1.024 MHz. The Samsung Galaxy II S that is in the shoppers pocket has 1 GB memory (1 048 576 kb), 32 GB storage (33 554 423 kb), CPU Dual-core 1.2 GHz (1200 MHz x 2)

This hand sized shopping aid is essentially 2 thousand times faster… but that’s just raw speed.

Instead of trying to embrace this shopper’s new technology effectively, the store is trying to plug a leaky ship by making it difficult for the consumer to comparison shop, use their technology in the store or in the cloud.

How are retailers responding?

Blockbuster, Borders, have all fallen to the digital efficacies of the internet. Are Target and Best Buy next?

It is clear that stores do not know how to use this super phone and are under siege. TARGET recently went on the defensive talking about “SHOWROOMING,” the phenomenon of using the store to touch and feel a product and then checking out in the cloud (a competitor’s internet cloud).

These retailers do not know how to respond. They try to leverage the phone and new channels but in large part they consider the phone a threat not an opportunity.

Which retailers are in most trouble?

There are two types of retailers:

Brand Retail: Like the Gap, Pottery Barn, Polo (in which one company makes and markets everything in the box) are channel agnostic. The brand retailer needs to make sure the shopper stays loyal and makes it simple to move from purchase intent to purchase. This retailer needs to count clicks to commerce and optimize the mobile experience.

Mixed Brand Retail: Like Target, Wal-Mart, Best Buy (in which one company houses multiple brand names on their shelves) need a more aggressive strategy to stay relevant and in business. They also need to work on optimizing path to purchase but they have the additional problem of price comparison and losing the shopper into competitive deals on the mobile internet (in four walls of the store.)

Amazon is their nemesis.

Amazon clearly feels that its success with the PriceCheck app is a good indicator that their new Kindle Fire tablet will be the mobile commerce device of choice. When this device become 4G later this year it will rake havoc on the mall. Already this holiday season we saw Amazon’s impact on retailers.

Amazon sees it role as “pro consumer” and if it is all about price then they are right.

If the retail industry continues to lament the rise of “showrooming” is it simply crying-uncle to Amazon. For Target to change its merchandise UPC codes, shut down WIFI or source unique product that are hard to price compare are not sustainable solutions.  By making it more difficult to price compare items in-store is a short term or no-term answer.

What is the solution?

The top three factors in shopper decision making is PRICE, CONVIENCE and TRUST. If it is all about price, we should all close up shop and go home.  Convenience can work for the cloud and bricks & mortar. Trust is the silver bullet.

Mixed retailers need to use mobile technology to engage the shopper in the store and enter into a DIGITAL relationship. Use an iPad to clientel.

Clienteling is a retail term that predates mobile but mobile is the idea channel for the service. Clienteling is when the retailer interacts with the shopper and provides one-to-one personalized service, offers and communication in the store.

Retailers need to use tablets to interact with the shopper. Help them find a product. Add this to a wish list – tie this wish list to a profile. Ask them for their mobile number to send updates, sale reminders, VIP invites. Retailers need to engage the shopper at the cash register and ask for their mobile number for follow on deals and offers.

So what is the big take away?

Cross channel disconnect is where most of the retail revenue is lost: between the store the online site. Amazon and other mobile savvy folk will either grab your shopper as they fall through the cracks or, worse yet, your will just loose the shopper to another store because you are just making the path to purchase too difficult.

Mixed retailers and brands retailers need to develop a “trust” relationship that will keep that consumer as a loyal consumer. Store that can develop a digital trust relationship across all their retail touch point will help the impulse shopper make that impulse buy at their checkout.


The link for the book is  The impulse economy 


In Die Welt this morning ..










This morning I am in Germany’s biggest newspaper :)  Die Welt 

The two links below are in German but you can use Google translate

There is also a print edition which I dont have a link to

The book link is at Meditation in the age of facebook and twitter


Still looking for some speakers – apps for smart cities

We had a great response to the apps for smart cities project – but we are still looking for some speakers. Please contact me at ajit.jaokar at if interestested


Carnival of the Mobilists #261 – at camerjam blog


first time host  - Carnival of the Mobilists #261 – at camerjam blog  does a great job!


An analysis of early white space network success stories and their future implications ..










I have covered white space networks before (Opportunities and challenges of white space applications)  and white space networks are a part of my PhD research (Optimising resilience of remote monitoring medical devices over white space networks).  Hence, it was good to speak to Peter Stanforth – CTO of Spectrum bridge– and many thanks to Bob Geller of fusionPR for making the connection.

White space has often been described as ‘WiFi on steroids’ and when treated as a technology similar to WiFi, anyone can deploy it (including existing network operators). Hence, white space complements existing networking technology (like WiFi  and Bluetooth) and will lead to new use cases for both incumbents and new entrants.  Having progressed beyond initial trials, White space networks are in the news . For instance, city of Wilmington north carolina government  will use white space radio for backhaul for wireless access points in two public parks and to set up four cameras to monitor a public garden.

There are two areas where white space networks will make an immediate impact:  Rural (or underserved) areas where there is currently no good coverage and M2M (Machine to machine) networks.  I was interested in understanding the deeper significance of white space networks and how they would impact our lives.  This was the motivation of my talk with Spectrum bridge and also of this blog post. Spectrum Bridge aims to empower the wireless Internet by improving the availability, access and allocation of wireless spectrum. It offers a software platform that manages available bandwidth in real-time for licensed and unlicensed spectrum.

So, if we approach the question from a services standpoint, then what are the possibilities?

Yochai Benkler has an excellent working paper on white space networks  which is a MUST read if you are interested in the truly transformative possibilities of white space networks.  Over time, I expect that white space networks will be ubiquitous and also will be transparently supported by devices and laptops (just like WIFi technology is today) – so I expect customers will not concern themselves with what technology their service uses. However, if you want to currently find out about white space technologies then we have white space network databases for the UK and for white space network databases for the USA (see my previous post on white space technology overview to explain the significance of white space databases).

So, getting back to how white space networks will impact our lives (i.e. white space network based services) I discussed the TV white space success stories with Peter. Specifically:

-      Logan, Ohio Google and Spectrum Bridge, Inc., together with the Hocking Valley Community Hospital announced the deployment of the first TV White Spaces broadband trial network for healthcare providers in Logan, Ohio.

-      Plumas-Sierra County - Spectrum Bridge, in partnership with Plumas-Sierra Electric Cooperative and Google, launched the nation’s first “SmartGrid” wireless network trial, utilizing TV White Spaces spectrum.

-      Wilmington, NC - Spectrum Bridge’s “Smart City” solution is able to access available TV White Spaces spectrum and manage the deployed “Smart City” network by dynamically assigning non-interfering frequencies to White Spaces devices throughout the service area to effectively provide bandwidth where and when it’s needed.

So, I wanted to understand the wider significance of these case studies and also their current limitations.

These are my notes:

a)      For smart cities – (see my interest in smart cities – and apps for smart cities) – Is the white space network technology currently confined to cities with existing coverage problems? Yes, currently that is the main use case.  The key is that white space is Non Line Of Sight (NLOS) technology so anywhere that WiFi struggles, white space will succeed. There are various studies that put white space at between 3 and 5 times the coverage of current WiFi. Also, adding more spectrum is like adding more lanes to the highway so even if LOS is not an issue more capacity is good.

b)      For the Hocking Valley Community Hospital application, there was a specific use case related to emergency vehicles : In addition to indoor/outdoor broadband access, a portable TV White Spaces network was also deployed for Hocking County Emergency Medical Services. This network allows emergency vehicles to wirelessly transfer data directly from EMS vehicles located at the hospital campus, to EMS data systems.

Peter explained this as follows: The ambulance associates with the hospital network about 1/2 mile away allowing patient data to be sent ahead of the arrival. They also use White Space to extend the hospital network to satellite offices, local doctors and consultants and into the wider ecosystem around the hospital campus

c)        Same for smart grid (i.e. not accessible area in -Plumas-Sierra County) : Hence I had the same question: – What is the wider use case for any smart grid scenario (in future) with increasing use cases of white space? In this case, the propagation is the key. Getting reliable access to meters, switching equipment and other sensors is increased through better propagation of white space networks and in addition the lower cost of the white space radio makes a difference (See the significance of Neul’s work in this space with emphasis on capacity, cost, power consumption, range and size for white space networks)

So, what is the insight at this stage?

White space networks have some unique characteristics and enable some interesting use cases both for broadband access and M2M networks.

Over time, I expect many disruptive applications to emerge purely due to the availability of networks i.e. access enabled by white space networks more cheaply. We will also see a more complex use of spectrum. So far, spectrum access has been archaic, expensive and inefficiently managed.  Spectrum is a common / public resource. Currently, countries allocate spectrum to specific companies (Operators). In developing the spectrum, Operators are expected to enable the public good and to develop an ecosystem. Today, we see an exponential growth in demand and this is impacting the old way of ‘pre-allocating’ spectrum. So, I expect that we will come back to the idea of a more shared/dynamic allocation of spectrum over time – leading to new growth, innovation and applications.

To see the wider impact of this discussion, don’t forget to see Yochai Benkler’s excellent working paper on white space networks  which reviews evidence from eight wireless markets: mobile broadband; wireless healthcare; smart grid communications; inventory management; access control; mobile payments; fleet management; and secondary markets in spectrum.  He finds  that markets are adopting unlicensed wireless strategies in mission-critical applications, in many cases more so than they are building on licensed strategies.

I will do a follow-on blog on these areas and also a specific post about the benkler paper

Informa Telecoms & Media’s latest Future of TV Survey

Occasionally, you come across a survey which has a lot of information and insights.
This is one. Its not from me but I found it useful to understand the industry issues around connected TV one of my top trends for 2012
as below

Thank you for your email. Here is the survey detail that you can forward on:
Welcome to Informa Telecoms & Media's latest Future of TV Survey.
We would love to hear your views on the issues shaping the industry in the next five years.
Your participation will be anonymous and should take no longer than 10 minutes.
To thank you for your participation, we will send you the headline results of this survey,
plus the chance to win an Amazon voucher worth US$150. Please leave us your contact details
at the end of this survey to be entered into the draw.
To complete the The Future of TV 1Q12 survey, click below: