Welcome back from the holidays. FierceWireless is kicking off the new year with our predictions for the Top Trends of 2007 in this special issue.
All eyes will be on WiMAX in 2007, and its backers' lofty promises. Like all hyped technologies, it is inevitable that WiMAX will face some hurdles. For instance, we'll get a clearer picture about what this technology really costs. Will it really be cheaper than 3G? The WiMAX Forum is hopeful everyone will chip in their patents for free or at an absolute minimum. Big vendors like Ericsson say that's highly unlikely. And economies of scale don't happen overnight, even if Intel and other heavyweights are putting all of their muscle behind the technology.
2007, however, will finally be a breakout year for wireless broadband in general. This year promises increased support for wireless broadband standards 1xEV-DO and HSDPA in more laptops and PDAs. For example, along with its decision to introduce 802.11n wireless networking capabilities into its mobile platform Centrino Pro, Intel also plans to integrate HSDPA into the platform. 2007 also promises to be the year for smart phones as prices drop and consumer interest in high-speed data services such as video increases.
2007 will also be a test for the most talked about service in 2006: broadcast quality mobile TV. Verizon will make its debut using Qualcomm's MediaFLO network in 2007, while Crown Castle's Modeo will make a run at launching a standalone mobile TV service without the support of a carrier. Will it be the big moneymaker service in 2007?
User-generated content will be the hot topic in 2007 too. The Internet's most popular sites, MySpace and YouTube, have so far dipped their toes in the mobile waters. YouTube made an exclusive deal with Verizon while MySpace signed an exclusive with Cingular Wireless after its exclusive with MVNO Helio apparently expired. The trick here will be to enable users to do exactly the same things in the mobile environment that they can do on the Internet. So far that isn't happening. Verizon Wireless is only airing pre-selected high-quality videos on its YouTube channel. Given the fact that most of the videos on YouTube are of the homemade variety, this pre-selection will likely dilute the value proposition. Interestingly, wireless-based services like AirG and Jumbuck might just provide a better platform for wireless user-generated content.
Now that content is well entrenched and high-speed networks and data-enabled devices are in the market, operators will begin a push to help consumers actually discover and use content with ease. I'm aware of at least one major announcement coming in this area in January. Research has already shown that conversion rates are higher for services that are much more intuitive.
And what an exciting year it will be for mobile-phone shipments. 2007 will see shipments hit the 1-billion mark for the first time, driven by high-growth countries such as India and more mature markets where consumers are upgrading to new models. If mobile TV is a hit, we could see a big acceleration. China will be an important market in 2007 for vendors as they await 3G infrastructure awards. Look for some dogfights as ZTE and Huawei aggressively bid for contracts.
I believe this new year promises to be an extremely interesting one for the U.S. wireless industry. Will customer growth be strong for all mobile operators in 2007? Could this finally be the year when operators focus harder on keeping customers loyal rather than grabbing as many as they can?
We look forward to continuing to bring you the top stories every day to keep you on top of the wireless and mobile Internet market. Without further ado, let's ring in the New Year with the Top Trends of 2007. -Lynnette