Open up, here comes the 4GMF

By Brian Dolan

Stanford University Professor Willie Lu's 4G Mobile Forum (4GMF) has big plans for the future of U.S. mobile communications. The 4GMF, of which Lu is the founder and chairman, wants to "liberate the whole wireless industry" so that users can personalize their future mobile phones and enable mobile users to navigate the platform as deftly as a mouse-equipped PC user.

 

"Even though we call the forum the '4GMF,' it doesn't mean we have a very formal definition of what '4G' is," Lu says. "I'm a technical person and technical people don't care about these terms. '4G' or '3G'--these are just marketing terms, they are not technologies' names. We just called it '4GMF' because most people have no idea what something like open wireless architecture is."

 

Lu says that the Forum's goals are threefold. First, the Forum aims to bring "open access" to the U.S. mobile communications market by doing away with locked SIM cards. Second, the Forum wants to make the mobile phone's interface as simple and easy as possible for users to navigate. Third, the Forum aims to promote an open wireless architecture for 4G networks.

 

The Forum's U.S. launch kicks off at the CTIA Wireless I.T. and Entertainment show this October.

 

"This is our first time in the U.S. so we are not going to launch a conference by ourselves," Professor Lu says. "We are working with CTIA to see what happens. CTIA was very interested in our proposal so if this goes well this time we should be a part of CTIA shows in the future," he adds. "We have a very strong, very strong speaker team this time so this is going to be a very, very important event at the show."

 

Julius Knapp, the FCC's chief of engineering and technology, will keynote the three-day event at the CTIA IT Show in San Francisco. Executives from Intel, Oracle, Texas Instruments, Ericsson, Qualcomm and Yahoo will also be participating.

 

Lu explained that the 4GMF's vision for4G technology is very similar to that of the ITU, which is set to launch its 4G program this fall followed by an official standard next year. "ITU's vision for 4G is very clear: convergence," Lu says. "It will make use of multiple technologies because there is no single wireless technology that can do everything we need 4G networks to do."

 

Lu says he expects mostly wireless engineers, investors and policy makers will attend the 4GMF show. The industry is hungry for more information on the regulatory environment surrounding the 700 MHz auction with its open access provisions. While the debate surrounding the 700 MHz auction certainly ingrained the term "open access" into the telecommunications sector's collective psyche, Lu says that it was just the beginning of the opening of the U.S. market.

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