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Remarks of Assistant Secretary Rohde at the 3rd Annual International Symposium on Advanced Radio Technologies

Boulder, CO
September 06, 2000

Remarks by Assistant Secretary Gregory L. Rohde
3rd Annual International Symposium on Advanced Radio Technologies
Boulder, Colorado
September 6, 2000

"Brought To You By The Letter 'M'..."

I am pleased to be back here in Boulder this morning. Twenty years ago, almost to the day, I arrived on the Colorado University campus as a student athlete. Like many of young runners who grew up in the after glow of Frank Shorter's Olympic gold and silver medals in the marathon, I came to Boulder, the running Mecca, to train with him. One day when Frank and I were running intervals on the practice field across from the football stadium, I asked him why he moved to Boulder to train for the 1972 Olympics. He said "because of the altitude." When I asked why he thought altitude training was so important, he said: "because Lasse Verin does it." Verin won gold medals in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters in both the 1972 and 1976 Olympics. I had expected a much more complicated answer from an Olympic champion. I guess one of the qualities that made him the great runner he was is that he knew how to follow a successful example.

I am not as fast as I was on my first trip to Boulder, but I still run. This morning I was reminded why Frank Shorter and so many other runners came to Boulder in the first place: the challenge of the altitude. I am still catching my breath from my short run up the canyon this morning.

So we should all take a moment of silence - not just so I can catch my breath but to mourn last weekend's loss to Colorado State. It is a rough start for the Buffs for a tough season. This year, CU has a one of the tougher schedules in the country. Their first six games are against teams that were in bowl games last year, and their last game is against Nebraska, everyone's preseason pick to be No. 1.

That's some obstacle course the team will have to negotiate between now and Thanksgiving. In fact, there's only one team I can think of that has an even tougher set of obstacles to overcome between now and Thanksgiving -- that's the team headed by Coach Val O'Day. Playing that Big 12 schedule is nothing compared to getting through all the people who want to have their way on the GPS/ultra wide band testing. But I have faith -- both in the Buffs and our team -- will come through in fine shape.

College football is a lot different today than when I attended C.U. Like may other aspects of our society, football is utilizing information technologies. I read the other day that one of the CU coaches has his own Web site for teaching pass receivers. The team is also interested in buying a new Interactive Play book that will be CD-ROM based, and later hosted on the Internet, that will allow players to look at game films in the comfort of their own laptop PCs.

It's also fitting for this discussion that the bowl game the Buffs won last year was sponsored by Insight sells computers and software online, so it's part of what has come to be known as electronic commerce. In Internet speed, that description of course was shortened to e-commerce, and is now known as e-tailing and is part of the larger category of e-business, which wasn't shortened from anything but was born that way. Those terms, of course, spring from e-mail, which came from electronic mail, which dates back to 1977. It wasn't until 1982 that e-mail made its appearance and until 1993 that the term appeared in a dictionary.


Now it seems that every other word now has an "e" in front of it. People talk about e-services, e-page, e-government, e-books, e-greetings, e-campus, e-communities, e-prizes, and the list goes on. While it's nice that the field is exploding like this, in a way, it's also very confusing. Kids today don't know that the word "emotion" isn't pronounced "e-motion" and has nothing to do with virtual race cars.

Luckily for those words starting with "e", we are in the midst of a new technological transition that is also changing the lexicon. If nothing else, this transition will bring back sanity to words beginning with the letter "e." That's because it's being replaced in the jargon by the letter "m," as in "mobile." M-business and m-Commerce are already starting to worm their way into our jargon. It won't be long before people think the TV show "Mad About You" was about a new mobile advertisements -- the m-ad.

Don't laugh too hard. Here in Boulder, a California company, SkyGo, will start a test next month with 1,000 people who will receive free cell phones and 4 months of wireless Internet service in return for getting m-ads -- coupons, discounts, rebates and other items from the two dozen or so local merchants who will participate. The "e" is giving way to "m" as what is hip in the IT sector.

The Next Internet Revolution

It should be obvious by now that the Internet is dramatically impacting the economy and many aspects or our lives. To call it revolutionary is an understatement. It is turning our world upside down and inside out.

The Internet is pushing us out of the industrial age and throwing us into a whole new economy which demands different skills, resources, and tools. Those in our society that have access to communications infrastructure and possess computer and information technology skills are the ones poised to capitalize on the tremendous growth of the new economy. The Internet revolution is creating opportunities and breaking down the geographic, racial, age, and income barriers of the past. The Internet is transforming small school houses into sophisticated places of learning and turning main street businesses into global marketplaces.

When the Internet revolution converges with the wireless revolution, however, the dramatic changes we see today only reveal only a glimpse of things to come.

Today we have Blackberry -- a wireless e-mail device.

And, we have Bluetooth, a wireless protocol for connecting devices.

There are many more early examples of the wireless web:

  • The U.S. Open tennis tournament is going on this week in New York City. People with Internet-capable mobile phones and PDAs can get real time scores and news transmitted through the official WAP site -- wireless application protocol -- for the tournament.

  • Nokia has licensed about 300 songs from EMI that can be used as ring tones on cell phones. Instead of the musical notes you hear now, you will hear Janet Jackson or the Spice Girls. The good news is, this service at the moment is only available in Europe.

  • The Bank of America is starting to offer wireless banking and brokerage services, an M-Bank if you will. Customers will be able to view account balances and transfer funds between accounts while also checking stock quotes and news headlines. Taking it one step further, the Infrared Data Association conducted the first successful test of sending financial data between a Palm device and a point-of-sale terminal, one step toward portable, wireless purchasing.

  • In San Francisco bus passengers will soon be able to use their wireless phones to get arrival information for specific stops -- not just a general schedule.

  • Finally, there is the Web-elevator. A Massachusetts company installs flat-panel Internet displays in office buildings around the country. Information is updated every 20 minutes through a wireless local area network. The Net is everywhere.

Some reports suggests that Web-enabled phones are selling "at an astounding rate," with almost half of the cell phones sold earlier this June equipped to receive Web or Web-like service. Just a year ago, only 5% of the phones purchased were Web-enabled.

Within three years, one in 3 mobile phones will be able to access the Web. Within 5 years, 500 million people worldwide could have access to the Internet through wireless devices.

Analysts predict a range of growth, with the wireless data business growing from three million customers this year to more than 50 million in just two years, and 200 million five years from now. M-commerce is expected to grow into a billion-dollar market in just five years. One analyst has predicted that European wireless phones will become more common than landline phones, which is probably why the German auction for 3G spectrum brought in more than $46 billion. We all know of the tremendous success of i-mode in Japan, which is driven in large part because most Japanese people don't have wireline access. The most significant i-mode development recently isn't the rumor that DoCoMo may do a U.S. deal -- it's that Disney will create content for i-mode's 3G service next year.

The Wireless Future and NTIA

In the next few years, wireless technologies will surpass the desktop as the main method by which people will access the Web. Fixed and mobile wireless technologies will not only help bring the Internet to more and more or the world's citizens, but they will also bring the Internet and other information technologies into many more aspects of our lives.

Because the wireless area is so crucial to many aspects of our national telecommunications policy, the development of wireless technologies are central to the mission of NTIA. We need to view our mission to develop technology and policy as an essential part of our mission to manage the federal spectrum.

WICI. An example of this is reflected in a new initiative I established when I joined NTIA. It is the Wireless Innovations in Communications Initiative (WICI) to create a new channel for government users and industry to talk with one another. WICI has two goals. The first is for government users and industry to become more aware of each other's spectrum needs and to work in a cooperative environment. The second, equally as important, is to foster innovation. By having these meetings and hearing each other's requirements, I hope to create an institutional means by which those with the newest and the best ideas can get them heard by the managers of federal spectrum and private industry. The WICI process is just getting started and is showing great progress and promise.

WRC-2000 and 3rd Generation Wireless Services. The development of 3rd generation wireless services poses both a challenge and an opportunity for NTIA to provide leadership in this area. I went to the World Radio Conference in Istanbul, and have been deeply involved in the post-WRC discussions, because the third generation of wireless systems offers so much promise for this nation.

3rd Generation wireless services will bring a new dimension to the Internet, ones we can only dream of now. The beauty of seeing the first iterations, like i-mode and the WAP-based services, is that I know, and you know, that the applications and technology can only get better. Today's web phones are like Henry Ford's Model T - they only provide a glimpse of the potential of mobility in the information age.

3G services can play a large role in moving from the digital divide to a policy of digital inclusion - to use the words of our new Commerce Secretary Norm Mineta . Wireless technologies can help to bring affordable access to more and more consumers as the cost of service continues to drop. Along with that reduction will be the accompanying increases in the number of people able to access the Net.

In addition, 3G also holds out tremendous promise as a fixed technology. It can be used to link devices on wireless networks, perhaps even in the home. And more significantly, it can be used by competitive service providers as an alternative to the arduous processes, time and expense that go with building wireline plant. According to the Cahners, In-Stat group, it's possible that 3G will even allow for an expansion of high-speed data to the residential market -- an area long overdue for the choices that business customers now have.

Other New Technologies. The ITS lab plays a critically important function in developing new innovative technologies that will have life transforming impact. One example is the testing functions that only this lab can perform and the excellent reputation that this lab has for its professionalism and objectivity.

Recently, NTIA has asked many of ITS engineers to conduct critically important testing on ultra wide band devices. With the skillful, objective testing that only the ITS lab can do, promising new technologies like ultra wide band would have less chance of moving forward. Ultra wide band technologies could create a paradigm shift in spectrum functionality. However, before moving ahead, we must determine that such devices will not impose any harmful interference on life saving services such as GPS.

NTIA is up to the challenge of navigating through the politically tough decisions like harmonizing ultra wide band technologies and GPS because of the unique role that the ITS lab can play. Finding consensus on this issue is about as difficult as the Buffs sweeping past 7 bowl teams in one season. A challenge certainly, but a surmountable one.

We can't forget, and I can't stress enough, that none of these great and good things from 3G and the other technologies could happen without the people in this room and on this campus. I realize what a national treasure the Boulder labs are, and how indispensable Val and the rest of the staff ITS are to the formulation of national and international policy. I am so pleased to be with you in person today to say "thank you" for the tremendous contribution you are making to NTIA, the Commerce Department, and the Nation. The work of ITS is essential if our nation is to make our mobile system the equal of those overseas. When you lift the hood of the wireless engine, it's the ITS mechanics who do the service.

But their contributions don't stop there. ITS staff was invaluable in putting together a report on the state of rural broadband deployment that was released by President Clinton in April. ITS recently signed a cooperative agreement with Intel that could lead to better quality streaming video. They work on critical infrastructure programs for the Defense Department, interference questions for the Federal Aviation Administration, GPS analysis for the Federal Highway Administration.

ITS staff work with leading companies, like Intel and Lucent technologies, on cooperative research agreements that will benefit all Americans.

In short, the "m" word to describe the work done here at the labs is "magnificent." We should all be proud of their work.

Thank you for inviting me here today. I wish you the best of luck with your conference. I know the result will be a better life for us all.