Telecom Building Boom Looms on the Horizon

Published September 1, 2007

Watch for more private-sector telecom infrastructure spending this fall. That’s the finding of a July survey of nearly 700 telecom industry professionals attending the NXTcomm industry forum.

While 96 percent of respondents to the joint Telephony-Tellabs survey said they expect infrastructure spending to increase during the last half of the year, service providers were especially bullish on the topic, with 47 percent saying spending will increase by 8 to 10 percent.

What’s driving the growth? Mobile video and IPTV, say respondents. Here, too, carriers were optimists. More than 54 percent said mobile video–movies and videos showing up on wireless phones–was driving growth now or would within a year.

Internet protocol television (IPTV) has a slightly longer time horizon, with 78 percent of the respondents saying IPTV will be a significant growth driver within three years. Of those, 42 percent said IPTV will be an important driver for their business plans in the next two to three years, and about 36 percent say it will reach that status in the next year.

Source: Dan O’Shea, “NXTcomm survey: Spending growth ahead,” Telephony Online, July 7, 2007:

Broadband: The Job Maker

The private sector adds 293,000 jobs for each percentage point of broadband adoption–and that’s a very good reason to go light on regulations, say two leading analysts and their co-writer.

A research paper by Brookings Institution economists Robert Crandall and Robert Litan and Massachusetts Institute of Technology research associate William Lehr provides new estimates of the effects of broadband penetration on both productivity and employment, in the aggregate and by sector.

To get more broadband and get it sooner, the authors urge lawmakers to let competition play out because it will deliver more diverse broadband platforms more quickly. They urge state governments to remove barriers to new infrastructure investment by incumbents and new players.

The paper points out regulations that threaten carriers’ ability to recover costs essentially threaten continuing investment in infrastructure. The study draws on state-level economic data correlated with Federal Communications Commission data on broadband penetration for the lower 48 states between 2003 and 2005.

Source: Robert Crandall, William Lehr, and Robert Litan, “The Effects of Broadband Deployment on Output and Employment: A Cross-Sectional Analysis of U.S. Data,” July 2007:

Twisting the Light Fantastic

Fiber-optic cabling is today’s gold standard for data transmission. The hair-like glass tubes carry light encoded with trillions of bits of data per second. The dark side: Light literally travels on the straight and narrow; bend a fiber too much and the light–and all the data it carries–misses the turn and shoots out into space.

That means fiber hasn’t been workable inside most homes and apartment buildings, where it must turn corners and twist and bend.

Now, scientists at Corning–one of the largest manufacturers of fiber-optic cable–have figured out how to keep light traveling around corners. The process uses nanotechnology to help light waves hug curves and corners instead of shooting off them.

Corning hasn’t yet rolled out the new fiber commercially, but Verizon–which serves thousands of apartment buildings in its East Coast territory–is ready to buy, executives there say.

Source: Stephanie N. Mehta, “Bend It Like Corning,”, July 25, 2007:

A Taxing Matter

Today, many purchases consumers make via the Internet are free of sales tax, unless they are ordering from a merchant either based in one’s home state or with brick-and-mortar retail outlets in it.

That may change. On July 1, Washington state became the 22nd to sign the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement. Under the agreement, a retailer, catalog emporium, or direct mail operation, online or otherwise, would have to pay sales tax to any state to which it ships goods.

About 1,000 retailers have signed the agreement, which essentially is voluntary because it is still questionable whether states legally can collect a tax on sales to other states and whether online sales will be subject to sales tax at all. The incentive for merchants to register is a promise of amnesty if they are ultimately found to have a substantial tax liability.

Some industry groups hurt by e-commerce competitors, such as Jewelers of America, support taxing Internet sales. Consumer organizations, however, point out consumers shopping via the Web tend to pay higher shipping and handling fees. The time and expense of accounting to pay sales taxes in 50 different states could be onerous for mom-and-pop businesses, too, they note.

Right now, a federal moratorium prevents collection of sales tax on out-of-state Internet sales. But Congress is working on its own state sales tax collection plan.

Sources: Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Seattle Times staff, “Your next online purchase may include a surprise: tax,”, July 1, 2007:

“Taxing the Internet,” Daily Policy Digest, National Center for Policy Analysis, July 2, 2007:

WiFi Health Worries Wither

Will the BBC stop at nothing in seeking a good headline? Not content with making the British monarch look petty via some doctored video, the once-venerated broadcasting institution was caught distorting data to make it appear a wireless-enabled laptop computer was a veritable electromagnetic power generator.

The report said the laptop put out three times as much electromagnetic radiation as a cell tower. That caused William Stewart, head of the United Kingdom’s Health Protection Agency, to call for an inquiry about using wireless Internet in schools because of supposed cancer risks.

Then the Manchester Guardian learned BBC producers had measured the radio frequency (RF) output of the WiFi card in the laptop computer from three feet away–and that of the cell tower, used for comparison, from 300 feet away.

Paddy Regan, a physicist at the University of Surrey, criticized the experiment because to make a fair comparison between two radiation sources, the measurements have to be taken at the same distance for both.

“Grossly unscientific” was the verdict on the program from Malcolm Sperrin, director of medical physics and clinical engineering at Royal Berkshire Hospital. “It’s impossible to draw any sort of conclusion from the data as presented there,” he said.

Sources: James Randerson, “Scientists reject Panorama’s claims on Wi-Fi radiation risks,” Manchester Guardian, May 21, 2007:,,2084217,00.html

“The Classroom ‘Cancer Risk’ of WiFi Internet,” (London) Evening Standard, May 21, 2007:’cancer+risk’+of+wi-fi+internet/

Sharon J. Watson ([email protected]) writes from Sugar Land, Texas.