If one issue emerged from the recent Silicon Beach conference at USC’s Marshall School of Business, it’s this: Southern California’s future – from the safety of its people to developing next-generation technology to cultivating new prospects for the entertainment industry to strengthening public education – depends in large measure on the region’s capacity to build and upgrade its wireless broadband networks.

Why? Because so many of the devices that Southern Californians use in business communications and everyday life rely on instant access to mobile data. And Silicon Beach is where the apps of the future are being created. Over the next few years, those wireless needs will increase exponentially.

The problem is the very source of creation and extensive use of wireless broadband is also the center of resistance to broadband deployment efforts. SoCal remains a hotbed of innovation and use, and a hotbed of resistance to deployment, usually for spurious reasons.

We have only begun to realize the power of wireless. Beyond the steady rise in mobile subscriptions, we are witnessing a shift toward more powerful and versatile mobile devices that demand more bandwidth. Research conducted by USC’s Institute for Communication Technology Management shows that more than 60 percent of American households now have smartphones – and nearly half have tablets.

These next-generation devices are transforming our communications landscape. According to San Jose-based Cisco, the typical smartphone in 2013 generated nearly 50 times more mobile data traffic than the typical basic-feature cellphone, and the average tablet generated more than twice the traffic as a smartphone. At the same time, nearly 40 percent of U.S. homes are now wireless only, making their mobile devices their only communication devices. These trends demonstrate the utility and power of our connected devices, but they also highlight the enormity of increased network demand that will only grow in intensity in the months and years to come. 

Entertainment industry executives and app designers, take heart, however: The United States is just now at the cusp of the mobile video revolution. Global mobile video has the potential to get a lot bigger and better – and far more lucrative for providers and carriers.

But that’s only if there’s the right infrastructure in place to transmit it. At the urging of my association, PCIA – The Wireless Infrastructure Association, the Federal Communications Commission this fall adopted a series of rules to streamline the deployment of wireless infrastructure. Southern California deserves first place in line.

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