The 4G vision: Wireless embedded in every device

4G's success may be linked to being available in as many devices--including talking appliances--as possible to drive down infrastructure costs and drive up market usage. Once one gets past the obvious connections--smart devices, laptops and even regular mobile phones--the possibilities seem limitless and potentially silly.

"I don't think the industry should be using examples of your dishwasher being connected," Chris Pearson, president/senior operating officer of 3G Americas said.

OK, then what should the industry be talking about? To some extent, it's whether the chicken or the egg will arrive first.

"Operators want to get this embedded in all sorts of devices so they can find new ways of making money but to get it embedded in all these devices you have to have a network that's really scalable," Peter Jarich, research director of Current Analysis said. "There is an issue of scale and getting enough of these out to drive the costs down and yet someone has to take the lead to begin with."

One way to do that is to integrate as many capabilities as possible into multi-function chips. This would start by adding more functions to currently subsidized devices--mobile phones, PDAs and dongles--then bridging into the consumer market with non-subsidized products ranging from MP3 players to those joked-about appliances that would take advantage of high-speed broadband connectivity.

Of course much of this depends on the type of content running on those applications. That steps into the extraordinarily sticky wicket that is intellectual property rights (IPR). If someone develops it, someone else is expected to pay. If the cost's are too high, the entire pyramid becomes a slab in the desert with nothing on top but sand, or, in this case, silicon.

"Let's make sure we get the IPR costs down. And make sure we know what's going on with how much this costs, so we don't end up driving the cost up so much we can't get it into consumer products," Jarich said.

Lower IPR, subsidized devices to start, and finally more integrated silicon will help on the consumer side. On the carrier side, there's an even better reason for moving it into as many devices as possible and making LTE the 4G of choice.

"LTE is very good for operators in terms of the cost of the network and the operational costs. LTE is supposed to be much cheaper to operate in terms of cost-per-megabit being delivered to customers," Stuart Little, director of corporate marketing for Harris Stratex said.

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