Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

Why is your cellular service so crummy?

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Tuesday, February 7, 2012

In writing to a friend about telecommunications – starting with the demise of the pay phone – I wrote “I know how ya’ feel.

“How some ever… we were told about how these things might change as far back as ten years ago (or thereabouts), or so.”

I began to explain that we’re now undergoing is a national transformation – albeit one that the telecoms are hating/loving. The problem is, that the dinosaur telecoms are being driven toward revolution by the technology. They’re not leading, they’re being moved by force.

And that force is the people – the market. And yet, there’s a problem with being moved by force. And I do not refer to force in a mild way. I refer to force as ‘when-push-comes-to-shove’ type of force.

The seeming ubiquity of such low-cost technology is driving the telecoms and forcing them to change their business models and practices. Why, for example, do we NOT have a nationwide high speed WiFi network? In South Korea, folks there have watched television on their cell phones for quite some time, and have a national WiFi network.

Another question related to the cellular aspect is, why has the FCC not mandated a single unified cellular standard – rather than allowing the ridiculous infighting among CDMA, TDMA, GSM, etc., technology to occur?

The FCC has the authority, and it is in their purview to manage such technology for the benefit of the American public. They mandated a unified standard for broadcast in television – the NTSC standard, versus the PAL which is used in Europe – which has allowed teevee stations to compete upon their content versus their technology. Viewers, for the greatest part, don’t give a rat’s rip about technology. They want content.

Yet, what cell phone user has NOT complained about signal quality?

Without exception, I dare say that EVERY cell phone user has – at one time or another – complained about cellular “coverage.” Even with the migration from analogue signal to the digital signal, signal drop-outs are commonplace, and remain an ongoing source of consternation for many… even in urban areas.

Still, the FCC has not exercised their authority to mandate a unified standard, nor require the wireless carriers to adhere to certain good practice and standards which they have long required the POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) providers to do.

Here are some examples: Landline, also known as wire carriers, have greater signal quality than cellular for many reasons, among which are routing and switching. When a telephone call is made, the route the call takes can go through several switching stations. If one station in the network is down, the call is automatically re-routed through another nearby station. That re-routing is invisible to the end users.

Not so with wireless. There are no switching stations. If a tower is down, there is no alternate route. Thus, in the case of a tower failure, all wireless users in an area would have no service.

If the FCC had long ago mandated that tower sharing and dual redundant networks and routing backups were in place, the problems of dropped calls and lack of coverage or no signal would be a thing of the past. Yet we struggle with them to this day. Those problems should not exist.

Again, the authority and power to control and mandate those issues out of existence lies with the FCC. Yet they have done nothing.

For those whom would assert that “government regulation” should disappear, I reply that the few regulations now in place have done nothing to spur innovation, develop markets, or serve the needs of the people… other than to increase the stock price for the major shareholders in their publicly traded stock shares.

It was the FCC that mandated the 9-1-1 call system for the sake of public safety to identify the location of someone in harm’s way or in jeopardy of losing their life because of fire, tragedy or health crisis. Had the FCC not mandated the cellular companies implement such a system, they would not have. As a matter of fact, the wireless carriers were purposely reluctant in implementing such a system, and instead, paid the fines to the FCC for not having a working system in place by the deadline established by the FCC. That one act alone demonstrates that the wireless carriers cared not for human life, and only their profit margins. ()

Yet, were they mandated to share towers, and had only one unified system of operation – a standard – they could focus on improving quality customer service, rather than building differing and competing towers and systems.

It’s analogous to an automobile race: all the competitors in a certain race or class of racing are held to a set of unified standards, and they compete against each other to determine who is the best driver. They’re not allowed to do their own thing. There is no sports competition wherein the competitors are allowed to do their own thing. Baseball, football, soccer, tennis, golf… each sport has rules that govern their operations, the guidelines to which the competitors adhere.

The same principle and concept applies to the wireless network – if only the FCC would do their job, we could all now be 20 years ahead of where we are now.

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