News Column

Broadband Demand Grows Exponentially

April 14, 2011

Teddye Snell


When the color television was introduced, it took 35 years before even 25 percent of the population owned one. When the iPad hit stores, more than 1 million were sold in the first few hours.

Bryan Gonterman, president of AT&T Oklahoma, said that when people take a moment to consider the issue, it's amazing how fast technology -- and the public's desire to adapt -- has changed over the years.

"As we mobilize, the public's adoption time has just taken off," said Gonterman. "Remember the Walkman? They were big and bulky, and you could drop it on the ground and it wouldn't break? Well, it took 13 years to sell 100 million Walkmans. It took three years to sell 100 million iPods, and 74 days to sell 1 million iPhones and the iPad sold 1 million units in a number of hours. Things are changing."

Gonterman gave a presentation about the future of communications during the Tuesday meeting of the Tahlequah Rotary Club at the Armory Municipal Center.

He pointed out that if Facebook were a country, and subscribers its citizens, it would be the third-largest country on the planet.

"In eight years, from 2001 to 2009, the Oklahoma communications market went from having 3.3 million to 6.2 million," said Gonterman. "We've had a huge explosion in wireless subscribers, and today, AT&T has over 3 million wireless subscribers in Oklahoma."

While some people may believe the market may become saturated as people ditch their land-line services for Internet and cell service, Gonterman said the opposite is true.

"Many people own several devices," he said. "They have a device for work, one for personal business, etc. Demand for broadband service has grown 1,600 percent over the past eight years."

As a result, current communications accommodations are growing crowded, and AT&T is working across the state to replace copper wire to towers with fiber optic cable, enabling the company to roll out its 4G service by the end of the year. Gonterman said AT&T continues to expand its 3G service.

Many in the area will remember that the company launched its 3G service shortly before the end of the year, and demand for wireless data has grown exponentially ever since. "We're trying to provide the best possible customer experience," said Gonterman.

"And people are asking more for broadband and DSL services. Consumer land lines have decreased over 50 percent. In 2009, a federal study was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control of people who had given up their land lines, and Oklahoma ranked first in the nation at 26 percent. In 2007, AT&T carried 88 billion text messages and in 2010, that number increased to 643 billion in 2010. If you do the math, that's 73.4 million texts per hour. Society is changing in how it communicates."

According to the AT&T website, 3G technology provides "accelerated data speeds and simultaneous voice and data capabilities," which allows subscribers faster, on-demand viewing of high quality video clips. Gonterman said this is why the fiber optic cable is key to providing better service.

"Copper is great for voice, but very few people use voice communication these days," said Gonterman. "Everybody wants to be able to view video on demand, download television shows and movies, and use video chat."

Gonterman said the only thing that prohibits AT&T from providing these services as quickly as many people would like are subsidies applied to legacy -- or standard land line -- customer bills. Often, up to 33 percent of a legacy bill is tied up in taxes and service charges that go into these subsidies that provide rural and low-income phone service.

"We are working with the state corporation commissions and the federal government to get this changed," said Gonterman. "As a matter of fact, the FCC has over 170 rulemaking items open right now to look at this issue. If you care about expanding the latest technology beyond its current availability areas, stay informed, talk to your legislators."

Source: Copyright (c) 2011, Tahlequah Daily Press, Okla.

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