New Wireless Options On The Horizon

September 2007, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Jeff Smelley - Also by this author

Wireless broadband service will be changing in the near future, and what a potential bonanza it could be. Early next year the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is scheduled to auction additional airwave space to wireless providers. In so doing, Kevin Martin, chairman of the FCC, proposes to remove the restraints which cell phone providers have enjoyed for years.

The frequency spectrum up for grabs is the 700 mhz spectrum that has been used by TV stations for many years. Since TV stations are switching to digital technology this range of frequencies will no longer be used and therefore can be reallocated for another purpose (i.e. wireless broadband). This signal spectrum has the ability to penetrate walls, buildings and other structures, as evidenced by the ability to receive TV signals without a rooftop antenna. The potential new wireless services that can be brought to market based on this spectrum is huge. Imagine reliable wireless connectivity from building to building, town to town or even state to state that can provide high speed service without the need for expensive equipment or costly monthly fees.

The most promising point of Martin’s proposal is the elimination of vendor specific hardware and software. In other words, to change carriers you will not have to reinvest in equipment. When these frequencies are auctioned, the successful bidders will be required to allow portability of equipment from another vendor. At present, when you change cell service from one vendor to another you must repurchase equipment from that which is offered by the new vendor. Under the proposed guidelines you will be able to have your existing equipment reprogrammed to work with your new service. The open access proposed by the FCC, will also allow you to select software from third party vendors that better suits your needs—meaning you are no longer at the mercy of the telecom vendor to provide innovative new applications that can take advantage of the wireless broadband service. Devices like BlackBerries will be even more tailored to meet your specific needs. Suppose you could monitor an auction device, monitor a security system from anywhere, and access your DMS or inventory all from your handheld wireless device.

The intent of this “unlocked” approach to wireless service is to promote innovation and therefore competition within the wireless broadband market. Currently in the cell phone arena, vendors control what options, services and features are offered on their devices. This approach keeps consumer cost higher through fee based services such text messaging, Web access and sending pictures. Eliminating such control over the new wireless broadband spectrum should encourage significant innovation amongst third party vendors to expand functionality. Think of your current Internet service and then extend that functionality to mobile wireless devices. The significance of hardware will diminish, while the significance of software will increase, bringing mobile computing more fully into the mainstream.

Opening the wireless broadband market to widen consumer selections is an important step toward eliminating controls in the cellular phone market. We will likely see continued consolidation of companies within the wireless telecom market, and the ensuing competition for market share will likely see the current cell phone restrictions voluntarily removed.

While new technology often takes some time to implement and actually reach the consumer, in this instance I believe that time frame will be much shorter. The current infrastructure being abandoned by TV stations already exists to deliver the service. I anticipate this infrastructure will be leased or purchased by telecom companies to allow a very short deployment schedule. Therefore, products and services will likely be available within months rather than years.

These proposed changes and new services represent a giant leap forward in mobile computing. The new applications and services will amaze and astound us as they are introduced. While much of the current cell phone technology may go the way of Betamax and VHS, the change will ultimately be worth it.

Vol 5, Issue 8

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