I’ve been waiting nearly 2 decades for Big Bang II. An adult flick? No, the sequel to Big Bang (aka the breakup of MaBell and the introduction of equal access) was supposed to be the breakup of the local monopoly. Well thanks to the Telecom Act of 1996 and the well-intentioned farce that it was, that didn’t happen and equal access officially died (equal access RIP) in 2004. Or did it?
I am announcing that Equal Access is alive and well, albeit in a totally unexpected way. Thanks to Steve Jobs’ epochal demands put on AT&T to counter its terrible network, every smartphone has a 802.11 backdoor built-in. Together with the Apple and Google operating systems being firmly out of carriers’ hands and scaling across other devices (tablets, etc…) a large ecosystem of over-the-top, unified communications and traffic offload applications is developing to attack the wireless hegemony.
Cisco just forecast that 50% of all internet traffic will be generated from 802.11 connected devices. Given that 802.11’s costs are 1/10th those of 4G something HAS to give for the communications carrier. We’ve talked about them needing to address the pricing paradox of voice and data better, as well as the potential for real obviation at the hands of the application and control layer worlds. While they might think they have a near monopoly on the lower layers, Steve Job’s ghost may well come back to haunt them if alternative access networks/topologies get developed that take advantage of this equal access. For these networks to happen they will need to think digital, understand, project and foster vertically complete systems and be able to turn the "lightswitch on" for their addressable markets.