Racy app highlights broadband issue 

click to enlarge Screenshots of the Vibease app for Android. - COURTESY OF VIBEASE
  • Courtesy of Vibease
  • Screenshots of the Vibease app for Android.

At this very moment, somewhere in San Francisco, an innovative new product is being tested and refined. This product harnesses the power of smartphones, mobile broadband and mobile apps to ... well ... offer women around the world and their partners a new way to (ahem) connect.

The product is a smartphone app called Vibease (no, really), and it's being billed as the world's first "smart vibrator" (no, really). Rather than fumble through my own explanation of how Vibease works, I'll just crib liberally from the company's CrunchBase profile: Vibease is a private social network for couples with massager integration. Couples can use Vibease for chatting and share their moments. The best part is the woman's partner can control her massager using an iPhone or Android phone even though they are separated by distance.

So there's that.

But here's the thing: Even if an app-driven vibrator doesn't tickle your fancy, there does appear to be a market for it. Or at the very least, there are investors who believe there's a market. Vibease is already $40,000 above its crowdsourced fundraising target on Indiegogo. It has also received seed funding from angel investors and $25,000 in venture funds. With that kind of startup capital, Vibease has to be taken seriously even if its product tends to incite giggles.

It also ... and you better hang on to something, because I might lose you with my upcoming segue ... it also highlights the need for smart spectrum policies from the Federal Communications Commission.

You see, while masturbazione (as the Italians call it) has been around since we were scribbling in caves, the widespread consumer adoption of mobile broadband is a relatively recent development. But much like the act of shôuyín (as it's called in China), relying on our mobile devices to get online anytime and anywhere has become a major part of our daily lives. Some of us do it several times a day.

But the unprecedented popularity of mobile broadband faces, well, some obstruction. As Vibease has made clear, there seems to be no limit to what app developers will imagine, nor to what wireless customers will find helpful. This incredible demand for more mobile devices and more applications is where the problem emerges. It's one thing when consumers have the power to check email and visit their favorite websites wirelessly. It rises to another level when consumers need to also power more data-intensive apps like streaming video (and ... well, anything else you might want to stream) that require higher-spectrum resources.

The point of all this (and thank you for staying with me this far) is that when it comes to products and services powered by mobile broadband, we're only beginning to scratch the surface. Ten years ago, smartphones did not yet exist as we know them, and the idea of a smart vibrator probably had never come up. The fact that smartphones are now everywhere and apps like Vibease are drawing serious interest from investors should be enough to tell us that truly anything is possible with mobile broadband. Whatever innovative ideas arise next, our wireless networks must be equipped with ample spectrum in order to be ready.

This means we cannot afford to impose artificial constraints on the opportunity for providers to obtain more spectrum. When designing its upcoming 2014 spectrum auction, the FCC needs to keep in mind that every wireless provider, both big and small, needs more spectrum capacity on their networks. If the spectrum auctions are encumbered with restrictions on eligible bidders, and all providers are not allowed to bid equally, then the FCC risks leaving millions of consumers ... well, unsatisfied.

Mike Montgomery is the executive director of CALinnovates, which works as a bridge between technology communities in California and the public policy communities in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.

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