CTIA Preview: Wireless broadband finally hitting prime time

Wireless broadband is finally hitting prime time. I've been waiting for this to happen since the late 1990s.

I remember covering the fact that CDMA 1x operators were afraid of migrating to EV-DO because they didn't want to dedicate any of their precious spectrum to just data when they didn't know what the demand would be. I remember the failures of companies like Teligent, which economically couldn't make a go of its fixed wireless broadband strategy to compete head to head with cable and DSL providers. The economics just weren't compelling enough.

Today, we have WiMAX going in underserved areas, emerging markets and across the U.S. if Clearwire holds to its rollout schedule. 3G smart phones and netbooks are selling like hotcakes. Everyone is taking aim at broadband stimulus funds coming from the federal government.

That's why trade shows are much more exciting. Broadband is exciting. It unleashes a plethora of applications and uses people never dreamed of before. The only thing I get tired of is people getting ahead of themselves. Before 3G came on line, for instance, executives were touting a whole new wireless-only world. Your phone was supposed to share information with your navigation system and entertainment system in your car. Everything in your home was supposed to be wireless-controlled by now.

Now it is 4G, which is all IP-based and offers significantly higher download speeds, that is supposed to usher in this entire ecosystem of exciting connectivity. This time, it appears the perfect storm is brewing for this to happen. Chips will be embedded in non-traditional electronics such as cameras and if you are really futuristic, refrigerators. Carriers are relaxing their tight grip on the network with Verizon and Clearwire allowing for open access. And simply, the bandwidth is there.

So when I hear executives start in on all of these futuristic scenarios, I don't roll my eyes anymore (well, not as much). The ingredients will be there to make it happen. I just don't know when we will cross that threshold. Right now, it's just about connecting people. But that is where the creativity comes from. --Lynnette