NAB, CTIA exchange fire over mobile FM chips


CTIA, the association for wireless companies, used a blog post to attack NAB claims about the inadequacies of cell phone service during recent emergencies, notably that the sudden surge in use caused the system to fail. NAB fired back with the obvious – that the systems did indeed fail due to capacity overload.

CTIA noted accused NAB of issuing self-serving and false rhetoric to forward its own cause, such as a mandated radio chip in mobile devices, and said the its members performed admirably during recent emergencies.

It said that in fact, many phone calls placed from cell phones did get through, despite the surge in use, and said that there was no way that any system could withstand the sudden influx of calls that hit, for example, just after the Virginia earthquake hit.

It noted also that broadcast stations delivered no phone calls at all. (Well duh – we don’t think there are any broadcasters out there claiming the ability to pass through telephone calls.)

NAB’s Dennis Wharton said, “Broadcasters welcome a debate on whether broadcasting is more reliable in times of crisis than cellphone networks, which is why NAB supports VOLUNTARY activation of radio chips in cellphones. Surely, cellphone companies are not blind to the fact that tens of thousands of Americans were unable to connect with loved ones after the recent East Coast earthquake because of an overload in the ‘one-to-one’ cellphone network.”

Wharton continued, “Broadcasters take seriously our role as first informer in times of crisis, and our ‘one-to-everyone’ transmission system makes local radio and TV stations the gold standard in delivering a reliable signal in lifeline situations. We understand the need for CTIA to defend its members, but in an era when public safety is paramount, we’re hopeful that cellphone makers do the right thing and activate radio chips in cellphones.”

RBR-TVBR observation: What an FM chip on a mobile device does is allow radio’s one-to-many broadcast model get vital emergency news and information out to citizens who need it whether a phone-function is of any use of not. Think about this – doesn’t it make sense that the more people using their radio function for info, rather than streaming it on the inefficient one-to-one model, the less strain put on the phone portion of mobile spectrum use? We’d want both capabilities on our phone in an emergency.

Let’s put it this way — if I’m trying to navigate my way home, under emergency conditions, from Capitol Hill in Washington DC to Woodbridge VA, I’m going want information about two subway lines and I-95, not to mention straight up-to-the minute news, PLUS I will want to try to call home. It would be really handy if my phone could handle both functions. But it won’t get nearly enough info into an emergency text message, and it won’t be worth anything at all if swamped spectrum makes it useless. So let’s have both radio and phone service available on the one device.