• United States
by Steve Taylor and Joanie Wexler

Signs indicate a shifting mobile landscape

Mar 18, 20042 mins

* Future of high-speed mobile WANs grows cloudy

It’s unclear what the mobile WAN will look like a few years from now. A few issues – both business and technical – are at work here:

* Consolidation in the cellular industry. As you likely know, Cingular is paying a walloping $41 billion to acquire AT&T Wireless. It’s unclear how that will affect competition and pricing, but analysts believe this move is the tip of the iceberg on the cellular acquisition and wireless front.

* The eventual impact, if any, of “4G” technologies from companies like Flarion Technologies, IPWireless and ArrayComm. So-called 4G technologies purport to deliver wireless, mobile connections at speeds akin to those of DSL. Their success depends on adoption by a nationwide carrier.

Nextel – the only large nationwide carrier that has not publicly announced a “3G” (broadband cellular) deployment strategy – recently began a trial service based on Flarion equipment in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area. The carrier isn’t committing yet to whether they will deploy a nationwide Flarion-based network, but if it does, it’s possible that the high speeds could enable application services that leapfrog those of Nextel competitors.

* For its part, Flarion is heavily involved in emerging IEEE 802.20 standards for broadband wireless mobility – an effort that overlaps somewhat with 802.16e, an emerging standard somewhat further along. Both 802.16e and 802.20 specify new mobile air interfaces for wireless broadband connections (albeit in different frequency bands) to fill the gap between high data rate wireless LANs and 2.5/3G cellular WANs. An 802.16e draft standard could be available by the middle of this year.

* The demise of Monet Mobile Networks, the first U.S. carrier to offer a true 3G service (based on an advanced flavor of Code Division Multiple Access technology). The company, with a reported 57 cellular base stations and 3,000 customers, has filed for bankruptcy and will be turning off its service April 2. 

The company offered services in eight cities in Wisconsin, Minnesota and North and South Dakota. According to the company, it just ran out of money when a financing deal fell through. Hopefully, this is not an indicator of lack of interest in high-speed mobile technologies.