Seybold: 2009 wrap-up

I was asked to submit a column wrapping up the most important issues the wireless industry dealt with in 2009. While there are a number, and I will touch on some of them, the reality is that the end of the year has little significance except that it is a good time to review where we've been, where we are and where we are going. The momentum in wireless is constant and gaining speed with every passing week. One reason is that this industry seems to be more resilient than most during hard economic times. Another is that we are seeing almost constant breakthroughs in technology on many different fronts.

That said, a number of things stand out for 2009. We have a new Federal Communications Commission and it is clear, at least to me, that this one is listening more to the Internet advocates than to the wireless industry. Net neutrality looms in our path, but hopefully it will be defeated--or at least the FCC will understand how different wireless broadband is from wired broadband and how critical network management is to wireless--but the wireless industry will have to do a better job of educating the commissioners and their staff.

Cloud wireless computing certainly gained a lot of ink and attention at numerous conferences this year, and several companies including Microsoft, Nokia and Palm ended up losing data their customers had entrusted to their clouds. I view the cloud as only one of the places I want my data stored. Cloud wireless access is a logical extension of our wireless environment, but anyone who trusts all of their information to the cloud is in for a rude awakening at some point.

Certainly the stimulus money ($7.2 billion) for broadband implementations garnered a lot of attention. The proposals put forth ask for four to five times that much and it is not yet clear who will receive the grants and how much difference they will really make. Our government seems to be treating broadband as a number of different things. Each group is vying to have its own solutions adopted, and now the FCC is developing its own broadband plan. The reality is that wireless broadband could be easily extended to cover most of the U.S. population if all of the organizations that are vying for it would work together: education, medical, and yes, even public safety.

TV white space was going to be a big deal with lots of unlicensed spectrum between TV channels all over the United States. Google fought hard and won, but when the rules were released, it became clear that TV white space systems in the top 100 or more markets were not going to happen. There are few if any places in the urban areas of the United States where there are the required three empty TV channels next to each other. One system has been installed in a rural area and I expect to see more, but I have to wonder why anyone would spend so much money on smart radios when there are less expensive ways to accomplish the same thing...Continued.

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