The wireless industry moves at lightning-fast speed, but even after years in the making, not everything is easily resolved – like interoperability for public safety.
This month, CTIA will celebrate the 25th anniversary of its spring show. How did the years fly by so fast?
I wasn’t there for that first CTIA show in May 1985 but I have seen my fair share since the PCS auctions in the 1990s. Back in those early days, you could find documentation of devices being submitted to the FCC for approval, but you couldn’t find too many people who cared. Today, of course, those cryptic FCC documents feed intense curiosity for those seeking any clue about upcoming devices.
It’s strange the things you remember when looking back over the years, like the period when Motorola and Ericsson each wanted to supply their chosen technology to public safety and address interoperability problems. Now nearly 10 years after 9/11, no nationwide solution is in place, and the FCC is recommending that an Emergency Response Interoperability Center be created to establish a technical framework that will guarantee nationwide interoperability. I guess that’s a start.
Long before we had people ditching their landlines for wireless in their homes, the industry debated the best and most accurate ways to find callers who dialed 911 from a cell phone. The FCC’s Phase I and II rules for implementing E-911 were a long time in the making, and even today, debate continues on the best way to find callers. There still exists a very real problem of pinpointing the exact floor or apartment where calls originate.
As for the commercial applications for location, the industry waited a long time for those to catch on, and now a lot of smartphone owners consider navigation and traffic to be must haves. At February’s Mobile World Congress, Google CEO Eric Schmidt discussed how powerful location is when paired with a cell phone and how mobile should offer a much better, targeted way of advertising than other forms of advertising, including online.
ROLLING THINGS UP
Consolidation has been a common theme throughout the years. In the ’90s, SMR operators feared that Nextel Communications would come in and buy out every independent 800 MHz operator in the country. I remember a conversation with a small, independent SMR operator who was upset at Nextel’s moves. I never heard what happened to him but wouldn’t be surprised if he got a bundle of money and quietly rode off into the sunset. That seems to happen to even the most determined of challengers. More recently, I talked with an independent wireless phone service provider who decided it made more sense to combine his assets with a bigger company than continue duking it out in the South Texas market.
The first time somebody showed me an early, rudimentary form of browsing the Web on a cell phone was pretty cool. I’m not sure how many people outside the industry really thought about surfing the Web on a cell phone more than 10 years ago. Even the wired Web left a lot to be desired in terms of information and navigation compared with today. Eventually, CDPD went away, 3G networks and mobile WiMAX networks were built and 4G became a marketing theme. A lot of people worked on better ways to navigate the mobile Web. Somewhere in there, some shrewd folks at Apple, a company not historically known for its wireless products, built the ultimate in browsing and data devices, and many others gave chase to create something at least as good if not better – and certainly more open.
We’ve seen a lot of companies come and go over the years. There was a time when at least a segment of the wireless industry feared that Microsoft, with all its computing power, would come to dominate the fledgling wireless data industry. We all know how that worked out. Not so great for Microsoft, although it’s coming back swinging with Windows Phone 7.0. Who knows? Maybe all the fear surrounding Google’s plans to take over the wireless space will turn out to be unfounded. Somehow, given Google’s “Mobile First” edict and desire to be a little part of every transaction, I doubt it.
Speaking of changes, have you looked at www.wirelessweek.com lately? We’re still doing the daily news updates as we have for many years, but you’ll find more frequently updated content on the site now. Check it out, register, comment on a forum – let us know what works and what doesn’t. (And you’re always welcome to share your thoughts with me at [email protected].)
Filed Under: Industry regulations