The first mobile telephone services which linked moving cars, started in the United States in 1946. However, the technology languished for decades all around the world, as national regulators meted and doled out minor amounts of spectrum to glacial industry supplicants via multi-year rationing commercial activities.
In 1980, McKinsey was consulting with AT&T, their client, that US mobile phone subscriptions in 2000 would be maximum at 1 million. Two years later, in 1982, with the AT & T company breakup being ordered by the courts for antitrust, AT&T top management executives volunteered to federal antitrust officials to forfeit their tiny loss-making mobile phone business. Unfortunately for AT&T shareholders, McKinsey analysts were off by two orders of magnitude – there were more than 100 million mobile phone subscribers in 2000. In AT&T’s and McKinsey’s defense, they didn’t anticipate two intervening spectrum policy innovations:
- government auctions of spectrum and
- flexible-use rules which enabled spectrum to be used in different ways.
So the question bears asking:
What other such technology transformations are present today? In my personal opinion the energy storage transformation is similar in scale and nature.
What other unclaimed assets need to be claimed and staked?
Another similar gold rush for a new global asset class – drone corridors and low-altitude airspace. Policymakers globally must adopt airspace markets, lest drone services become ossified by regulation like mobile telephony services pre-1993. Private investment is pouring into the commercial drone industry. Drone airspace resembles spectrum in the 1980s, an appreciating asset that could be bought, subleased, traded, and borrowed against –if it were only permitted. To do so.
What similar opportunity exists in the renewable energy space?