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Friday, February 16, 2007

Post-3GSM... some thoughts

Phew, what a week. Lots of stimulating discussions, meetings with companies new & old, briefings, client catch-ups & the occasional alcoholic beverage in amongst the canapes. And LOTS of walking about around the Fira complex.

This is a bit of a stream-of-consciousness posting mostly intended to help me procrastinate & avoid tackling my email backlog.

There seems to be a brewing storm over the two next-gen 3GPP technologies HSPA+ and LTE. I heard some vendors say that HSPA+ "wasn't going to happen " and that operators would go straight from Rel6 to Rel8, while others saying that LTE was going to be really quick-to-market ....or take much longer than anticipated. I'm looking into all these 3G+ alternatives for an upcoming report I'll say more about at a later date, and I've come away more confused than when I arrived. Plotted on an axis of LTE vs HSPA+ enthusiasm, I reckon that Ericsson and Nortel are firmly on the LTE end of the scale, Motorola a bit more neutral, Nokia sitting on the fence and Qualcomm planted firmly in the HSPA+ zone.

Femtos, femtos, everywhere. Too much to talk about right now, I'll come back to it at another point. Interesting side-effect is that while femtos are all the rage for the future, it's having a beneficial "halo" effect on companies exploiting their already-mature bigger brothers, picocells. Everyone now knows what a small cellular BTS is, so companies pitching them for enterprise, remote-site, emergency services, maritime or military applications are finding it much easier to describe their offerings & get customer acceptance.

The biggest longterm competitor for cellular data? Flash memory. The price/performance curve for local storage far exceeds that of over-the-air data transmission. If you don't need absolute "immediacy", why on earth wouldn't you stick maps / music / videos / appplication etc on a chip?

Quite a lot of cool WiFi-capable phones, even one or two decent UMA-capable ones like HP's. E28's look good on the SIP-capable side, ditto some of I-Mate's offerings. I still think that RIM, Motorola, SonyEricsson and Samsung are behind the curve on this, though. Side-note: I can't see the "attach rate" of WiFi into handsets getting beyond 10% of phones before 2010, if ever.

For those who maintain that the network will always tell the phone what to do, rather than vice versa: both Qualcomm and Texas Instruments mentioned the magic number 1GHz in their handset chip roadmaps. Coupled with an OS and some decent apps, that's more than enough for the handset to outsmart the inflexible boxes in the core, and exploit the different connectivity options in a more intelligent fashion. "Bearer agnostic"? Yeah right, you wish....

Low-end phones and integrated featurephone application suites look much more mature these days. There seems to be a definite market niche for "not quite basic" phones for emerging markets, with a few aspirational features that take them beyond pure voice&text. Using a single-chip platform with an out-of-the-box, "good enough" suite with colour, camera, maybe FM radio or MP3 support, seems to be a valid market.

Increasing signs that PBX/cellular integration (rather than replacement/substitution) is a hot topic. Yes, there were a few of the usual suspects talking about Mobile IP centrex, but usually as an adjunct to a fixed PBX, not a forklift upgrade. Full marks to Broadsoft for bringing an operator partner along to the briefing (Cincinatti Bell, which has both fixed & mobile arms, as well as a solutions division with plenty of sales expertise & experience in dealing with PBXs). The award-winning Telepo pitch was also pretty cool at first sight.

Lost at sea: IMS and Mobile TV. Yes, there were some people pitching them, but you could sense their hearts weren't really in it.

Last point - Barcelona is so much better than Cannes, it's amazing. If 3GSM ever goes back again, I'm not going to follow it - I'll do CTIA instead.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

In response to: If you don't need absolute 'immediacy', why on earth wouldn't you stick maps / music / videos / appplication etc on a chip?

For the same reason that I use the Internet and not my hard drive. Who says people don't need immediacy? It's the age of instant gratification, my friend.

Dean Bubley said...

So let me get this straight... you run all your apps via a remote web server, or at least installed them via download? No CD/DVD drive for games, MS Office etc, eh? (for the purpose of this argument, flash memory and CDRoms are equivalent, ie external, physically distributable storage).

Got the cache turned off on your browser? watch all your movies on video on demand rather than DVD? Satnav in the car purely reliant on over-the-air? Upload all pictures & videos from your digital cameras/cameraphones in realtime via wireless, rather than onto a memory card etc etc etc.....

Milpitas Boy said...

In response to: I heard some vendors say that HSPA+ "wasn't going to happen " and that operators would go straight from Rel6 to Rel8

Did anyone hear the 3GSMTV anouncement celebrating the fact that 1-in-8 phones sold in Western Europe last year were 3G enabled? Surely no operator has forgotten the issues with rolling out a new radio in their network and handsets?

HSPA+ with "single-tunnel" to the gateway then looks so similar to LTE/SAE that I fail to see why anyone would rush to roll out the latter.