Wireless expert predicts shakeup in standards war

VANCOUVER — Companies should should stop getting hung up on standards and look at improving their backend and focus on devices for the end-users, wireless expert and Outlook4Mobility president Andrew Seybold told the

annual ASI Exchange conference this week.

“”The next round of wireless technology wars will not come from the traditional communications sector, it will come from the Internet invaders,”” Seybold predicted in his keynote speech.

As that transition comes, Seybold said its up to wireless people to reach out and teach the ‘Internet invaders’ about the ‘black magic’ of wireless.

Seybold and his California-based consulting company look at the technology and trends around the convergence of wireless, mobility and the Internet, and Seybold shared his findings at the annual ASI Exchange networking event, which focused this year on wireless.

The latest numbers show that there are 1.3 billion wireless users today, and that number is expected to double by 2008. Technologies like Wi-Fi, hot spots and software-based spectrum solutions will all help drive that growth.

When it comes to the warring standards though, CDMA vs. TDMA, Seybold said there isn’t going to be a winner.

“”There will not be a single wireless voice and data standard in the Americas,”” said Seybold. “”There won’t be a single standard, but the first round of the religious wars are over.””

By that, Seybold means each network has picked their horse and will be riding it into the next round of competition.

Looking to expose some of the hype and myths around the different standards, Seybold said while TDMA advocates like to point to high numbers of users, in fact most of those users don’t have a choice. TDMA’s main user base is in Europe, where it has a monopoly.

In the Americas, where TDMA has to compete with CDMA, Seybold says TDMA has achieved only 20 per cent market penetration. And while CDMA is viewed as an American standard, Seybold said in fact it is spreading in Canada, South America, Russia and Eastern Europe.

“”But does all this really matter?”” asked Seybold. “”The reality is no, it doesn’t.””

Moving on to local number portability in the United States, Seybold said studies have shown it hasn’t had much of an impact in the wireless marketplace.

He also emphasized that wireless data services are not a big revenue generator. In fact, he said a company based solely on data services isn’t sustainable; right now voice is paying the bills for data.

There also isn’t a lot of research going on to find the “”next big thing”” in wireless data services. Right now, Seybold said companies are grasping in the dark with a hit or miss strategy.

“”In 2004 the push is to combine wireless data with local area access, but it will take a lot longer then people think,”” said Seybold.

There’s a lot of hype today around wireless hot spots, but Seybold said the fact is there is no business model for a hot-spot only business. Instead, the model will be to give it way in areas like hotels, airports and coffee shops.

“”The model is do something to attract the business traveler, and part of that is high speed Internet access,”” said Seybold.

On the Wi-Fi front, Seybold said the lack of roaming ability is holding back significant growth. Many different companies have markets across the country, but users don’t want to have to deal with each company and it is cost-prohibitive to do so. There are also security issues that need to be overcome.

The main market for Wi-Fi is the mobile professional, but Seybold said again few are willing to pay right now. Wi-Fi providers need to sit down and work out roaming agreements with their competitors for the market to take off.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.

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