Here we go... Recently Apple unveiled its much-anticipated iPhone 6, boasting a lightning-quick processor, larger screen and new features, such as a mobile payment platform. But amid all the hype lies a significant technical challenge: With every new generation of iPhone, average data consumption roughly doubles, according to some analysts. Translation? All these new data-rich features accelerate the challenges facing network operators in today’s supply-constrained spectrum environment.

Wireless data consumption is expected to skyrocket in the coming years, as more and more users turn to mobile for ever more sophisticated and data-rich tools from streaming videos to managing personal health to paying at the register. With consumer demand showing no signs of slowing down, network management—i.e. letting engineers rather than politicians decide how to keep the user experience running as smoothly as possible—has never been more important.


While America’s wireless consumers are currently benefitting from record investment and growth in a wireless marketplace that is advancing at lightning speed, the quality of the consumer experience is at risk, especially as the FCC considers adding regulations that could impede the work of network engineers in managing mobile traffic and congestion.

A recent report released by network expert Peter Rysavy paints a compelling picture of network engineers racing to keep pace with surging consumer demand for mobile connectivity. In his analysis, Rysavy urges a continued light-touch by policymakers, cautioning that new rules that limit how wireless operators respond to surges in demand will undermine the consumer experience and force us all to spend more time with the dreaded loading symbol.

According to the immutable laws of physics, the unique operational constraints of mobile broadband networks require engineers to have maximum flexibility to manage network congestion, keep pace with rapid cycles of innovation, and adapt business models to best meet consumers’ wants and needs.  When you consider that just a handful of mobile users streaming YouTube can cause a traffic jam for all customers using that same cell tower, practical decisions need to be made—in real-time.  Subjecting wireless broadband networks to rules that dictate how wired broadband networks are designed and operated would be a mistake.

It is imperative that the FCC keep this urgent demand-versus-capacity challenge in mind as it considers adding new net neutrality rules to the books. Everyone supports an open Internet.  And despite the call for more regulation—not a single formal complaint under the net neutrality rules has been filed with the Federal Communications Commission since its Open Internet Order went into effect in 2010.

So while the open Internet remains just that, the unique characteristics of wireless networks demand continued flexibility so these essential networks keep working for U.S. consumers and businesses.

Wireless is one of the most vibrantly competitive and innovative sectors in our nation’s economy. This mobile success story is due in large part to a light-touch regulatory approach that has been embraced by both Democratic and Republican administrations.

When the iPhone 6 actually hits the shelves later this month—and, no doubt, new generations of competing devices follow—consumers need policymakers in their corner. A continued light-touch regulatory approach will help further fuel the mobile innovation that has taken us from a brick-sized 2G telephone to these truly awe-inspiring all-in-one 4G LTE devices that are transforming virtually every corner of our lives and our economy.

Spalter, chair of Mobile Future (, has been founding CEO of leading technology, media, and research companies, including Public Insight, Snocap, and Atmedica Worldwide. He served in the Clinton Administration as a director on the National Security Council.