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September 26, 2006

We Do Need a Gigabit Over the Air

Today’s NY Times has an article on 4G wireless broadband. It’s headline is “Wireless Networking May Soon Get Faster. Will Anyone Care?”  4G, however it is implemented, delivers a billion bits a second over the air.  It’s more than a thousand times faster than basic DSL.  The article says:

“Skeptics say the biggest danger is that the new system, while an engineering marvel, is not something that consumers will actually use. They say the sort of nationwide wireless networks being envisioned will be expensive to build and that the cost will probably get passed down to users in high fees. Fixed-line access like fiber optics and cable modems, they say, will continue to be cheaper, faster and more reliable.”

Yeah, but fixed line networks ain’t mobile.  That kind of thinking put AT&T out of the mobile telephony business after Bell Labs invented the underlying technologies.

A quote I do agree with:

“We believe the Internet will be like air, something you want everywhere you go,” Mr. Shen of Sprint told the Samsung 4G conference.

We do want the same content no matter where we are and whether we’re stationary at home or driving far away (see yesterday’s post). And that content includes what we call television and radio today.

Back to expense: gigabit access will be cheap if and only if the spectrum it is provided on is open (also see yesterday’s post).  If the spectrum is kept as an artificially rare commodity, the price of 4G WILL (initially) be high.  On the other hand, if the spectrum is freely available, existing mobile operators will not have the huge advantage of being able to buy and hold the spectrum for the service and charge dearly for its use. 

Then who will invest in building the network? Intel, says I.  Motorola.  Nokia. Sell more radios and handsets.  WISPs (Wireless ISPs).  Entrepreneurs without inflated cost structures who can profit from the volumes of data and/or numbers of users.

If I were a younger I’d start another company to do something or other with open spectrum and the over-the-air everywhere Internet.  You oughtta consider that.

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