For access to opportunities in augmented reality development, underserved neighborhoods need broadband deployment

The news …

The Internet Innovation Alliance released the following about the increasing importance in the markets of augmented reality:

“Augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) technology makes use of sensory devices to modify a user’s surroundings, creating an immersive, simulated environment. In 2019, it’s forecasted that the market size worldwide for AR/VR will be $16.8 billion, with forecasts for 2023 reaching $160 billion. Given the anticipated growth in the market, companies have begun to allocate significant R&D budgets to AR/VR, including big tech companies like Facebook, Sony, and Microsoft.”

So four short years from now, the augmented and virtual reality world’s market will grow almost ten-fold. Bit what does this AR/VR world promise to bring to consumers?

Of smartphones and tri-corders …

Back in July 2016 in Dallas during a conference, I was persuaded by two college-aged young ladies to check out one of those virtual reality visors that promise to take you to a popular vacation spot without having to leave your room.  It took me awhile to get my bearings, reconciling what I believed to be real (the conference hall lobby I knew I was standing in) versus the vacation spot projected to me as reality.  That was three years ago and that demonstration seems primitive to what appears available today.

The website, HowStuffWorks.com, presents an insightful mega-analysis of the current and forecasted uses of AR/VR. Augmented reality with the use of digital technology is able to overlay digital elements on what we call the real world.  If you have a smartphone, there are AR/VR apps out there that allow you, for example, to point your phone at a building or landmark and obtain information about them.

“The basic idea of augmented reality is to superimpose graphics, audio and other sensory enhancements over a real-world environment in real time. Sounds pretty simple. Besides, haven’t television networks been doing that with graphics for decades? However, augmented reality is more advanced than any technology you’ve seen in television broadcasts, although some new TV effects come close, such as RACEf/x and the super-imposed first down line on televised U.S. football games, both created by Sportvision. But these systems display graphics for only one point of view. Next-generation augmented-reality systems will display graphics for each viewer’s perspective. ” — Kevin Bonsor and Nathan Chandler, How Stuff Works

The imposition of these graphics and other sensory enhancements can take place on your smartphone.  It seems that depending on your VR/AR consumption needs, one need not go out and buy or use the visor I tried on in Dallas.  From a producer perspective, there are a number of platforms that leverage Android or iOS operating systems to create the VR/AR technology and applications that merge “real” and “virtual” worlds.  Among these platforms are Maxst, Vuforia, ARCore, ARKit, and Wikitude, to name a few.

Again, these platforms are supported by mobile operating systems that need need broadband networks to run on.  But as elected and appointed government officials talk about economic growth, are they putting their money where their mouths are?

Policy makers need to encourage broadband deployment…

If neighborhoods are going to attract entrepreneurs capable of leveraging mobile platforms to create employment and income, then policy makers on local, state, and federal levels should remain vigilant in making sure that the rights-of-ways that they manage are being made available for the deployment of mobile networks.

If policy makers are serious about closing income gaps between affluent and less affluent neighborhoods, then purposeful policy must be used to encourage the broadband facility investment necessary for deploying advanced networks in less affluent neighborhoods.  If not, then the ten-fold growth in the VR/AR market will by-pass these neighborhoods.

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Newt Gingrich, 5G, China, and Capital: Nationalist policy doesn’t contribute to long-run Black community sustainability in the long run.

The Eye Catcher …

In an opinion piece posted earlier today, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich (R-Georgia), proposed that the U.S. government provide for a national 5G wholesale network, constructed by a private party. The network would be “carrier-neutral”, according to Mr. Gingrich, and help the U.S. beat China in the race for 5G wireless dominance.

Mr. Gingrich and the Trump Administration are concerned that China through state-subsidized firms such as Huawei and ZTE will be able to continually extend their smartphone and telecommunications manufacturing ability globally.

Mr. Gingrich sees a number of benefits flowing to America as a result of a nationalized 5G network, including the spurring of microelectronics manufacturing; accelerated deployment of next-generation networks; and the demonstration that China’s dominance in 5G is not a foregone conclusion.

It amounts to a nationalism play … that benefits capital

Based on his article, Mr. Gingrich would like to see a national 5G network in place so that telecommunications device and hardware makers can test drive new offerings.  If Huawei, ZTE, or other Chinese firms can get their product to global markets first, the United States will be in a hard place competition wise, trying to put 5G technology in the markets of multiple countries that may not have a problem with ZTE’s relatively inexpensive Android phones, subsidized, in part, by the Chinese government.

The above point is made in an article by Vlad Savov in The Verge.  Citing data from Canalys, a market analysis firm, Mr. Savov describes Europe as a market ready for price competitive wireless products offered by Huawei and sister Chinese firms Oppo and Xiaomi.  The political antipathy held by the United States toward China is not apparent in Europe with roughly 32% of smartphone shipments to Europe coming from Chinese firms.

But let’s suppose that a nationalized 5G network was built in the U.S. Who would gain the most from Mr. Gingrich’s proposal? I believe the greatest benefit would go to the wealthy, primarily those holding shares in telecommunications companies, other internet core companies, and internet edge companies.  A significant number of Blacks would not see the spoils that would flow to shareholders.  The vast majority of Blacks do not own stocks directly.

According to 2002 data by the Social Security Administration, the percentage of Blacks owning stocks directly was approximately nine percent compared to 36% of whites.  By 2014, the percentage of Blacks owning stocks had fallen.  According to data collected by the United States Census Bureau, approximately 5.2% of Blacks owned stocks or mutual fund shares.

Reduced access to components means greater difficulty for Black communities to innovate …

Google Fiber has been in Atlanta for a few years now, but they never deployed in my neighborhood which has a high Black population. Atlanta has its share of Black engineers as well as a few Black entertainers, businessmen, and investors capable of developing and deploying innovative communications technology.  Ideally, Black communities like those in Atlanta should be designing their own technologies, especially given their access to local teaching and research universities.  But if a nationalist policy toward Chinese telecommunications manufacturers limits access to affordable devices and hardware, that would only put a strain on Black community capacity to be resilient, self-sufficient, and sustainable.

Conclusion …

With all the talk of the negative impact of the digital divide on the Black urban community, “telecommunications nationalism” does not serve Black people well. Telecommunications nationalism does not send more capital to Black communities and does not facilitate technological sustainability.  It is not a policy that Blacks should get on board with.

 

FCC to vote on a 5G order designed to deploy more broadband

On 26 September 2018, the Federal Communications Commission will vote on an order that members of the Commission believe will help pave the way for deployment of the small cell technology that supports 5G technology.

5G refers to a next generation wireless technology that promises to deliver wireless communications at faster speeds with increased data capacity.  Writing for TechTarget.com, Margaret Rouse describes 5G as a technology that could provide data traffic speeds of 20 gigabits per second while enabling increases in the amount of data transmitted due to more available bandwidth and advanced antenna technology.

“In addition to improvements in speed, capacity and latency, 5G offers network management features, among them network slicing, which allows mobile operators to create multiple virtual networks within a single physical 5G network. This capability will enable wireless network connections to support specific uses or business cases and could be sold on an as-a-service basis.” — Margaret Rouse

Unlike current 4G Long Term Evolution wireless technology that relies on the deployment of large cell towers, 5G depends on the deployment of small cell antenna sites that are placed on utility poles or rooftops.  5G is designed to operate in frequencies between 30 GHz and 300 GHz allowing for greater data capacity but over shorter distances.

Commissioner Brendan Carr has been given credit for driving the development and release of this order.  Mr. Carr has been traveling the United States advocating for streamlined regulations that in turn would facilitate deployment of 5G technology.  Mr. Carr sees local and state regulations for cell tower and other facility siting as an issue and is making the argument that Sections 253 and 332(c)(7) of the Communications Act of 1934 can be leveraged to make local and state regulations less adverse to 5G deployment.

Under Section 253 of the Communications Act, the Commission may preempt any local or state statute or regulation that prohibits an entity from providing intrastate or interstate telecommunications services. States and localities can regulate telecom companies in order to preserve universal service, protect the public safety and welfare, and manage public rights-of-way.  Section 332(c)(7) maintains a state or local government’s authority over decisions regarding placement, construction, and modification of personal wireless facilities.

Mr. Carr argues that the order will generate $2 billion in cost savings for the wireless industry while generating an additional $2.4 billion in wireless investment.  Actual deployment is still nascent with expectations as to what 5G can do versus what it is actually doing.  Phones using 5G standards, according to Ms. Rouse’s article, are expected in 2019.  Cities are still constructing their blueprints for reconciling their smart city concepts and the “internet of things” with 5G expectations.  It may not be until 2030 that 5G becomes commonplace.