Thursday, March 25, 2010

Field of 4G Dreams

I’m not at CTIA nor have I been unable to keep up with the flurry of coverage. However, an article by Mike Freeman of the San Diego Union-Tribune caught my eye — not the least because of the skeptical tone by the news bible of Qualcomm’s home town.

Freeman refers to 4G as “the next big thing,” fixation nicely captured by the Gartner Hype Cycle or the earlier 1999 Michael Lewis dot-com chronicle The New New Thing.

Freeman quotes a number of skeptical analysts who (like me) don’t think mobile phone subscribers will increase their monthly bills (i.e. ARPU) for these new networks. Two wonderful snippets:

There’s almost a “Field of Dreams” quality behind the effort — “If you build it, they will come” — with the mantra that additional bandwidth will lead to new applications and services that will justify the investment.
“What is the killer app for this stuff?” asked Michael King, an analyst with technology research firm Gartner. “Why do I need 10 megabits per second to my handset? I’m not going to pay you a heck of a lot more for streaming video.”

The business model, he said, is “to be determined.”
He also quotes Qualcomm VP William Davidson predicting the long transition period during which 3G and 4G will co-exist:
“I think I’ll be retired and we’ll still have 3G in the networks in the U.S. because the economics of covering this vast geography with a technology that is really no more efficient. … I just don’t see it happening.”
So as a useful palliative to the usual 4G hype, it’s recommended reading.

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