"The More Things Change, The More they Stay the Same." (Alphonse Karr, 1808-1890).
Last week's CTIA was more subdued and not as exciting as it was a year ago. As other insider have reflected, maybe change is needed? CTIA, just 4 weeks after Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and CES the month prior, leaves us with little news and progress to report from CTIA. The themes sated the same: we all want a more open Eco system, LTE will happen and early deployments will kick off in the CDMA and WCDMA camps as early as 2010. Of course, device options will lag behind but that's what happens when a network evolution is kicked into high gear because some operators really-really want to be first.
In this case, Verizon wants to lead the charge by evolving its CDMA EVDO Rev A network to include LTE capabilities. This means, devices need EVDO Rev A and LTE within for years to come. The multi-band, multi-technology chipsets will be in great demand for years from AT&T, Vodafone, T-Mobile, who will demand HDSPA, HSPA+ and LTE within to make sure they have backwards compatible devices on global networks. The big nothing at the show was "WiMAX." Even with an announcement that WiMAX development center would be set up and that WiMAX would (in essence) be free in Silicon Valley -- there was no interest. Funny enough, even a senior Nokia person (and a big backer of WiMAX) said what everyone was thinking. "WiMAX is Betamax". It's now clear that Mobile WiMAX has lost out to (not LTE) HSDPA and HSPA. It’s just the matter of weeks if not months before the Clearwire ship will turn and maybe even become part of Sprint again - since spectrum is an asset and WiMAX has become a liability. Some big funds, after they are done being audited by Uncle Sam, will look to industry insiders as Scapegoats for their WiMAX negative return of investment (NROI).
The big take-away after the first two big wireless shows of the year (CTIA+ MWC) is that HSDPA and HSPA+ deliver a multi-meg experience with full mobility now and that these networks will pull-through voice, video and other rich content such as TV over these networks and thus creating a capacity crunch in the coming years as the industry grows to 1 Billion subscribers.
Maybe Taylor Swift's new song in 2010 will be about her experience as a mobile subscriber watching TV on the go in her music bus -- "the day my lifeline died" (much in common with "the night when the lights went out in Georgia") which explains the blog title "The More Things Change, The More they Stay the Same." (i.e., network strain will kill the phone).
With evolution comes conflicts and with conflicts - we experience turmoil. Progress is great, but it comes at a cost. We do not know what the cause and effect is until we experience it. When email and attachment became a way of doing life within the LAN, we had to move from 1 to 10 to 100M and then Gigh Ethernet and so on. As we got smarter and broadened the pipe, the users just sent more and more files. At each step of the way, we experience bottle necks as we bring "broadband to the people." If you give a mouse a cookie, you know the rest.
HSDPA,HSPA and LTE will enable more apps and more broadband experience which will cause new bottlenecks in the network. In this case, the mobile network. I can only imagine what the network architect at my "operator" think of me now that I am addicted to Slingbox on my mobile. I'm sure, if I can convince 3 or more people in my vicinity to also watch NCAA tonight on their phone in the same sector, our joint broadband experience will tie up Gigs of capacity for hours. This is good news for Cisco who has (correctly) predicted that mobile network capacity will be strained as more mobile broadband subscribers discover "crack TV" on their phone and understand that their 3G phone is capable of sending and receiving video.
So, the more we change to a mobile broadband connected world, we will discover the problems of the past presented in a new form but with the same logical conclusion: build out more, in a smarter way, while reducing cost and complexities - because we need to.