As 2010 closes, I thought perhaps it would be a good time to see how I fared with my 2010 wireless industry predictions. (Also, don't forget to check out my predictions for 2011.)
Here's how I fared:
2010 Prediction No. 1: WiMAX takes off in the U.S. Well, not exactly. I had said WiMAX would fly thanks to broadband stimulus plays and Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR). Going into 2010, that appeared to be the case, but the federal government's broadband stimulus awards turned out to be a real disappointment to a lot of applicants putting forth proposals based on WiMAX. Instead, the agencies in charge of doling out the funds chose to focus on the easier route: funding fiber-based, middle-mile projects. Moreover, it had appeared that Clearwire and its partners were firing on all cylinders at the beginning of the year. But that began to unravel in the latter half of 2010, as Clearwire ran out of money and its partners didn't want to put any more in. In addition, investors such as Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) and Time Warner were at odds with Clearwire over the strategic direction of the company. And though Clearwire is now lighting up big markets like New York and Los Angeles, Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) also is turning on LTE in big markets across the country. One thing I got right: The illusive WiMAX smartphone did come to market.
2010 Prediction No. 2: LTE separates the winners from the losers in the vendor market. Not quite yet. Chinese vendor Huawei blazed across the globe to snap up the majority of LTE contracts in 2010, according to TeleGeography. That is a major shake-up in the industry. Still, Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) is firing on all cylinders and leads in total revenue booked, while Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE:ALU) is holding its own too. Nokia Siemens Networks is in the process of buying the wireless network assets of Motorola, perhaps signaling the beginning of vendor consolidation. I had bet that NSN might be the one going out of business or changing focus this year, but it appears Motorola's assets should help NSN somewhat in the U.S. market. Further, NSN is supplying the nationwide infrastructure for LightSquared's LTE rollout.
2010 Prediction No. 3: Mobile operators make aggressive moves to manage data traffic. I can toot my horn on this one, although it wasn't a hard one to predict given the struggles that many mobile operators in the U.S. and Europe had with the influx of data traffic thanks to the iPhone and other smartphones. The advent of usage-based pricing was a reaction to the influx of data traffic. AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) became more aggressive in using WiFi to offload data traffic, while a host of companies entered the scene with various offloading and policy management solutions. Nokia Siemens Networks pushed for more efficient smartphone signaling.
2010 Prediction No. 4: Net neutrality becomes a reality. Correct. In late December, the FCC voted to approve net neutrality rules for wireless and wired networks, but there were some exceptions for wireless. Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S), T-Mobile USA and other wireless carriers will be barred from blocking services like Google Voice and Skype that compete with their own voice and video offerings, as well as those in which they have an attributable interest. However, wireless carriers will not face the same restrictions wired operators will on blocking Web traffic and other applications--a ban on unreasonable discrimination in transmitting lawful network traffic. Further, the action is likely to be contested in court.
2010 Prediction No. 5: Cable companies will become a thorn in the side of operators. Hardly. In 2009, Time Warner and Comcast said they saw the resale of Clearwire's WiMAX service as an important competitive tool. Yet we have seen no innovation in this area. Moreover, Cox was written off until it finally came to market with CDMA EV-DO service, but in just three markets. Cox did unveil a series of Android smartphones bolstered by preloaded mobile applications to give subscribers on-the-go access to their home television experience.
Well, my average is certainly not something to write home about. Let's see if I can do better for 2011.