News grab bag: FMC, free Wi-Fi, Google Phone and our perspectives

* Global phone services; metro Wi-Fi moves slowly; Google’s Google Phone

Today, we’d like to highlight a few announcements and developments in the news that affect convergence. The first report comes from the United Nations International Telecommunications Union (ITU) which estimates that global phone service has quadrupled over the past decade to four billion lines, which includes 1.27 billion fixed lines and 2.68 billion mobile subscribers; some 61% of mobile customers live in “developing countries.” Our analysis: While fixed mobile convergence move along at a snail’s pace, perhaps the popularity of mobile access will help carriers pick up the pace of deployments. And for those who thought that telecom was a dying industry, to paraphrase the saying, the reports of telecom’s demise “may have been greatly exaggerated.”

Second, on metro Wi-Fi and WiMAX deployments moving slowly. Some cities like Chicago have delayed or abandoned their plans to partner with companies like EarthLink to offer free wireless broadband access across the metro-area for all local citizens because the expense is much greater than expected, subscriber counts are lower than projected, and the model of using ad revenues and a few paid subscribers to subsidize the difference doesn’t seem to be working well. Our analysis harkens back to the demise of “free” (dial-up) Internet access models from about 10 years ago and can be summarized by the song lyrics “When will they ever learn?”

Third, on reports that Google might be working on a “Google Phone” and that it is in the running for the upcoming FCC auction of wireless spectrum. Our analysis: While Google has been the world’s best at generating revenues to compensate, the idea of a Google (maybe free) mobile phone seems to fly in the face of the popular $600 iPhone, and we remain unconvinced about the prospects of a successful business model based on this approach. Second, we’ve suggested that especially in the face of regulation or legislation against Google on ‘Net neutrality, Google is smart to keep its access options open; just the threat of using wireless access to bypass companies like AT&T or Verizon’s wireline broadband Internet access may contribute to a competitive environment. But (see second note above): we’re not sure there’s any such thing as a free lunch.

Next time: an interview with Sir Terry Mathews.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

IT Salary Survey 2021: The results are in