Archive for the ‘WiMAX’ Category

Which 3 Digital Technologies became Catalysts for Change?

Friday, August 31st, 2012

So what exactly have we recognized as being the three catalyst technologies or products that emerged in the year 2007? Below is an overview of each of these and highlighted are the main factors that we believe have influenced their evolution and subsequent relevance today.


WiMAX was an early 4G technology that started the move of the U.S. market to wireless broadband; it is often likened to “Wi-Fi on steroids”. The fact that Sprint and Clearwire, a startup that was supported by Google and Intel, could deliver blisteringly fast mobile Internet service forced AT&T and Verizon, the two largest U.S. carriers, to accelerate their deployment of 4G LTE. This development meant that standards needed to be agreed upon and formalized, and that network equipment manufacturers needed to accelerate production in order to provide for these large customers.

Having AT&T and Verizon focus on a single frequency (700 MHz) made it easier for device manufacturers to accelerate their development of 4G Internet products and deliver consumer-ready devices. The fact that some of these device manufacturers had been working on WiMAX devices in cooperation with semiconductor providers meant that they could accelerate products based on the WiMAX chipsets that almost 80% matched LTE.

Subsequently, both Sprint and T-Mobile have also either invested in or announced plans to build a 4G LTE network on top of their existing systems. What this means is that for the first time all four large U.S. carriers are offering mobile Internet services utilizing the same technology as the rest of the world, enabling global interoperability and roaming.

The iPhone

The second catalyst product was the iPhone which has received much acclaim for its elegant design and simple user interface. The real essence of the catalytic change that the iPhone initiated, however, was a shift in the consumer paradigm of a mobile device being used solely for communication to one that enabled interaction. The iPhone allows users to connect easily on-the-go and to share information, content, pictures and video simply and effortlessly. When it was first released, users found the interface to be so effortless that data volumes climbed exponentially and severely disrupted the AT&T network that had not been designed for large data capability! This forced AT&T, as well as other mobile operators, to rethink the entire concept of network architecture to include Wi-Fi as an offload mechanism. It also resulted in AT&T acquiring Wayport, and in the process becoming the single largest operator of Wi-F in the U.S.

Not only did the iPhone change the existing consumer paradigm and network architectures, it also broke the carrier stranglehold on its relationship with the subscriber. The iPhone was and still is provisioned via iTunes, which had previously been the domain of the mobile operator. This relationship with the subscriber, initiated at the time of purchase, was then solidified through the introduction of the app store and ultimately the iCloud. Apple effectively took the existing mobile business model, tore it up and replaced it with a hybrid that established a stronger bond with the consumer based on end-to-end user experience. The impact of the iPhone’s innovative design, end-to-end system, business model, user paradigm and elegant packaging of an everyday technology has had a tsunami-like impact on RIM, Motorola and Nokia, as well as on major mobile operators around the globe.

The Amazon Kindle

The third catalyst product that has been an instrumental agent of change is the Amazon Kindle. This device did for a 500-year-old product concept, the book, what the Walkman or iPod did for music. Best sellers are now cheaper and easier to obtain via the Kindle which provides on-the-go access to the world’s largest library/bookstore. This simple to use, low cost device made the mobile Internet transparent to the user by incorporating the cost of access into the price of the book. Amazon achieved this by creating a blanket connection relationship with AT&T for global access. The fact that the Kindle e-Reader automatically creates a relationship with Amazon means that loyal subscribers are a natural evolution. Proof that this technological revolution is affecting the literary world is evidenced by the number of large bookstores, such as Borders in the U.S., that have closed, and Barnes & Noble swiftly producing their own e-Reader, the Nook.

The iPhone and the e-Reader together have evolved into an instant-on class of device – the tablet – that satisfies the mobile consumer’s need to instantly connect, be entertained and informed. While small enough to remain portable, smartphones and tablets facilitate sharing, learning, creating and interacting using wireless broadband connectivity (3G, 4G and WiMAX) and these in turn have become indispensable parts of our everyday digital lives.

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global


Will Wireless Giants Kill Mobile Cloud Innovation in the U.S?

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Mobile cloud enabled innovation and entrepreneurial activity, vital to U.S growth, is under threat. The concern is how will future mobile cloud services be delivered and by whom?
The wireless landscape is set to change dramatically following AT&T’s $39bn bid to buy T-Mobile from Deutsche Telekom. Many people have difficulty understanding why these two companies would even consider merging their operations. It’s because the cost of competing in the mobile cloud industry can amount to billions of dollars and can be a significant drain on cash flow. The trouble that startup Clearwire is having funding the roll-out of its 4G network and at the same time attracting subscribers to its network is evidence of this.
The issue that Clearwire also has is that of being one small player competing against behemoths. Despite having some substantial investors, including Google, Intel and Sprint and several cable companies, Clearwire has struggled. This raises the question about what happens to the other smaller carriers, such as US Cellular, in a world dominated by two giants? Can they afford to provide the types of mobile cloud services that are key enablers for the economic future of the U.S?
If two major players have 70% control of the overall market, and 80% of the smart phone market, it could pose a dangerous situation for the consumer in terms of pricing, contract and usage restrictions. It could also mean that the opportunity for smaller players to grow and offer new innovative and competing services would be more difficult, and potentially even stymied. This concentration of power also raises the broader issue of being able to enforce a net neutrality policy under these circumstances.
An alternative approach that the FCC could consider is encouraging the creation of a shared wireless broadband network that smaller operators could piggy back on, and which could even stimulate a new breed of Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO). This network could be created with Sprint, a possibility that was originally being explored, and give T-Mobile access to the Clearwire spectrum and a network based on WiMAX. Over time, this network could migrate to the same LTE technology as the other operators. This migration is much simpler than most suppose since vendors of the network equipment have been anticipating it, and WiMAX and LTE have about 85% commonality of technology.
The detractors of this proposal would point out that all three companies have different cellular technologies and that this would be a marriage from hell. The reality is that AT& T, Verizon and Sprint have all operated different technologies simultaneously, including Wi-Fi hotspots. With the exploding growth of data traffic driven by video, network operators need to learn to seamlessly manage layered and multi-technology networks across diverse spectrum holdings. The Sprint /T-Mobile/ Clearwire “ménage à trois” could become a world leader, forcing the industry to focus on this issue, and a role model for encouraging the participation of smaller and more innovative players.
The concept of a shared network requires a clear vision, an open mindset and willing participants. T-Mobile, unfortunately, may not be one of them. After spending $32bn to buy a foothold in the US, and years of mismanagement according to Strand Research, Deutsche Telekom appear almost desperate to exit the venture which is probably why they went for the easy option with AT&T. The irony is that, unless the FCC does something radical, Deutsche Telekom’s decision will result in the U.S wireless industry becoming monopolistic. The landscape will be controlled by two cumbersome power houses and history predicts that this could ultimately hinder the full potential of the mobile cloud; this in turn could inhibit the entrepreneurial and innovative growth that the U.S so desperately needs. Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global LLC