CTIA this year was the coming out party for super-fast mobile broadband and introduced us to handsets that could really take our mobile experience to the next level, the question though is… do we really need the speed? Shouldn’t the carriers just be focusing on giving us universally reliable 3G right now?
Basically, the answer is “No”. We need Wimax, LTE and all the other ultra high speed networks just as soon as we can get them. 3G is essentially an amped up voice network forced to handle data. We need networks that are built for high speed data for three good reasons;
We expect to be always on, always mobile and always able to roam the net and access all our content. This means that essentially there is no such thing as a “mobile” as distinct from a “fixed experience in the “wherever I lay my hat, that’s my home” world we now inhabit. Our networks need to reflect this and the carriers know it. 3G can’t hope to cope with the demands placed on it by this need for “ubiquitous connectivity” and we simply can’t roam through a patch and mend world of “WiFi hotspot”, to 3G, to “WiFi hotspot” with the huge variations in quality for very long. These new ultra fast mobile standards will supersede 3G as the ”go to” standard for mobile just as surely as the mobile phone superseded the payphone.
In years to come 3G will be seen as a bridging technology between “fixed” and “mobile”. The more investment the carriers make in this future now, the more likely they are to win the future. It isn’t about speed so much as need. The carriers have to make this play, and they need to make it now. They should stop investing in expanding any 3G footprint that doesn’t have use in a 4G (and more future) just as they did when they moved from analogue to digital.
Even if we access networks from a complex variety of devices we need to simplify our life down to one contract and one bill. What sense does it make to have separate data plans for your iPhone, iPad and iMac? (or non-Apple equivalents)? None whatsoever. These new networks have a far broader reach meaning you’ll roam off the network far less while still getting high speed quality. This will enable the carriers to simplify your billing too, combining a table stakes bill and pay as you go (on the Kindle/Netflix model) into a new revenue model that reflects the user’s behavior rather than the number of his or her devices.
These networks aren’t only about handling data for the user, they make a lot of sense for the carriers’ future business models too.
Your mobile handset really is the center of your world now and is going to become more so. The evidence is everywhere, whether it be the Samsung Galaxy being able to wirelessly download films and stream them onto your WiFi enabled TV or whether it be Verizon now selling the Palm Pre Plus as a mobile broadband dongle. The “phone” sits in the middle of all your active and passive communication. First the phone did voice, then email and the internet (and voice) and soon it’ll do all these and act as the main coordination and streaming device for all of your content, home and life management. As handsets are being developed to handle the complex demands of taking our life, information and entertainment anywhere, life although ever more complex is being simplified down into one device.
We need the speed to make this possibility a reality. Whenever I walk around Best Buy I find myself thinking, “That’s cool, but I should be able to do that on my phone”. Internet enabled Blu Ray players, or TV?...what’s the point? The search and browse element is really poor compared to what I can do on my phone. I should be able to search for the movie and stream it through the same device wherever I am, which is always where my phone is. Likewise hooking my lap top up to the TV, should happen wirelessly through my phone, without the phone having to leave my pocket, without the bill burning a hole in that pocket, and without compromising my ability to make a call at the same time.
The handset technology is just around the corner, we need the network speed, range and capability to bring it all together.