If you are invested in satellite radio and read SiriusBuzz you are well aware of the potential impacts smart phones and Internet radio companies can have on Sirius XM Radio. Companies like Pandora, Slacker, MOG, and iHeartRadio can now all stream through a car stereo system seamlessly via a smart phone and Bluetooth technology. One argument I always hear regarding Internet radio is that the data costs will overwhelm consumers, and that there is a crunch in spectrum for mobile devices.
The first argument regarding data charges has been widely proven to be inaccurate. It is reasonably well known that streaming music for a couple of hours per day is not going to challenge a 2 GB data cap on some cell phone plans. Meanwhile Verizon still offers an unlimited data plan, with Sprint and T-Mobile offering very inexpensive unlimited plans themselves. The real facts are that 95% of cell phone users have NEVER gone over 2 GB of data. Simply stated, streaming music is not a huge data hog when compared to that which video streaming demands. AT&T has stated that just 3% of their smart phone users account for 40% of the data used on the network.
The second argument about a bandwidth crunch is far more interesting. At stake is a potential reallocation of bandwidth to cell carriers. Former FCC official Uzoma Onyeije has conducted a study that questions the existence of a broadband spectrum crisis, and further goes on to suggest alternatives to existing networks that would mitigate the need to reallocate spectrum.
The National Association of Broadcasters and their membership has a stake in this as well. The spectrum being discussed for reallocation is currently broadcasting spectrum. Obviously the NAB has a certain appreciation for this study and is advocating the distribution of it to the media, the FCC, and anyone who will listen.
Satellite radio fans love to hate the NAB, and oft question anything that is on their agenda. That questioning is healthy, but it does not mean that the NAB is "wrong" all of the time. In this case, the suggestions by the Onyeije study clearly indicate that perhaps the crisis is not as bad as people tend to think, and that currently available solutions exist to help mitigate problems. The study is a fascinating read and worth your time, as Sirius XM and their Internet radio brethren would all be impacted by what happens.
For those that love to hate the NAB, you may find yourself on their side with this issue. If you believe that current data networks can not handle Internet radio and that the crunch will doom Sirius XM's competition, the thought of reallocated spectrum to supply those networks could be a bit scary. Personally I believe there are issues with these networks, but that technology is solving those issues far faster than our government or its agencies can move.
It is unclear whether the study was funded by the NAB, but the arguments contained in it are presented in a way that outlines all of the issues, and potential solutions clearly.
[via Uzoma Onyeije Study]
Position - Long Sirius XM Radio