Wireless: it's complicated

It appears Google is learning a hard lesson about wireless--the cell phone industry is very complex and difficult to negotiate. Earlier this week the Wall Street Journal reported that the firm's Android software suite will likely not show up on handsets until late 2008, as opposed to its original plans to debut Android in the second half of the year. T-Mobile USA reportedly won't deliver its Android-powered phone until fourth quarter, Sprint and China Mobile will likely be delayed with their Android-powered phones until late 2008 or early 2009.

While some argue that this isn't really a delay, Android never expected to make its debut earlier than year-end, the gist of the story--that Google underestimated the complexity of the wireless industry--is interesting to me. Why? Because I've heard it so many times before.

When mobile TV was first getting its legs, hundreds of content firms contacted me to tell me about how they were going to deliver their video content to cell phones. Many of those companies are no longer around because they underestimated the complexity of the wireless industry. Getting their technology to work across the many different networks and devices proved more costly and cumbersome than any had anticipated.

The same can be said for the big brand names that launched wireless services as mobile virtual network operators. Even though they had the foresight to realize that building a wireless network was too expensive and too complex, Mobile ESPN, Disney Mobile, Amp'd and now Helio (see related story below) vastly under-estimated how expensive and difficult it is to market and distribute wireless services to consumers,  in a market that is already saturated with well-known incumbents.

As the mobile Internet begins to take flight, I suspect that many of Internet heavyweights will begin to realize what Google is learning--the mobile Internet is not the traditional Internet and yes, wireless is complicated.  Newcomers to the industry need to have deep pockets and patience if they want to succeed in wireless. --Sue

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