|Issue:||Europe I 2007|
|Topic:||What’s next with wireless broadband?|
|Title:||Senior Vice President, Wireless Broadband Networks, and CTO, Motorola Networks & Enterprise|
|Organisation:||Wireless Broadband Networks/Motorola Networks & Enterprise|
Daniel J. Coombes is Senior Vice President of Wireless Broadband Networks and Chief Technology Officer for Motorola Networks & Enterprise. In his position Mr Coombes is responsible for IP-based wireless broadband architecture and engineering, including Canopy® solutions, WiMAX, metro WiFi and broadband over powerline. During his 31 years with Motorola, Mr Coombes has taken on numerous roles in management and system development. He also held positions of responsibility in Motorola’s Government business and enterprise business. Daniel Coombes holds Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Electrical Engineering, both from the University of Illinois.
The future of digital communications, in both developing and developed economies, is likely to be tied to wireless broadband. The recent approval of the mobile standard for WiMAX, the result of collaboration between hundreds of companies, will create economies of scale that will drive down costs and spur the widespread availability of affordable broadband throughout the world. IP over wireless broadband will deliver voice, data and video affordably to the world’s masses and renew the promise of the Internet revolution.
‘Click to anything’ wireless broadband The most critical development in the provision of wireless broadband was the announcement in December 2005 that the IEEE had formally ratified the 802.16e mobility specification for WiMAX. WiMAX, the offspring of collaboration between hundreds of companies from the information technology, communications and telecoms industries, the open standard for mobility will drive economies of scale in both network infrastructure, chipsets and client terminal costs (laptop and mobile devices). Indeed, we expect the market to pollinate quickly with WiMAX compatible equipment enabling service providers to take advantage of a ready-made business model that combines the pervasiveness of Bluetooth or WiFi with wide area networking at broadband speeds. WiMAX takes advantage of the fact that IP is becoming the dominant, unified, global communications language, steadily displacing legacy networks; so it can seamlessly move virtually any content, application or service. It will play a key role in re-defining the concept of mobile services as subscribers access a simple ‘click-to…’ interface to control an array of compelling services. Entertainment WiMAX will add simplicity to technology. Integrated into consumer devices the PVR, personal video recorder, PC or home media centre can talk seamlessly to the games console, Internet, TV, hi-fi, DVD or MP3 player with no wires and no fuss. WiMAX will also make applications that rely upon speed much more compelling. Take, for example, TV; with broadband data rates, fans can quickly download their favourite TV programme or watch a live news and sports feed to while away their commute. Buying music will be quick and easy as well. Having listened to an artist on their device’s radio a subscriber may decide, at the touch of a button, to download the album with the transfer taking just a minute or so. Gaming will be much more fun – the experience of playing games on mobile devices will move closer to that of dedicated handheld devices. The days are numbered when ‘multi-player’gaming on handheld consoles means being in the same room as your competitor and fighting a virtual battle over Bluetooth; WiMAX opens the door to high-speed competitive game play for users across the world. Communications Spontaneous, interactive and fun – these are the characteristics of IP-enabled services that will be optimised when delivered over the always-on high-speed WiMAX connection. People can select from a menu of instant communications options; from instant messaging to push-to-talk to voice conferencing and live video chats. ‘Lifeware’ applications, the calendars and address books that we use to manage our everyday lives, will also advance. Powered by presence technology the mobile device will tell people when their friends or contacts are available to chat, meet or message. When travelling it can also recommend a hotel or restaurant based on our preferences and using the high-speed WiMAX connection link through to video blogs that describe and review the venues. Business users With carrier-grade service capabilities, the long-promised fully mobile office can be finally realised through WiMAX wireless broadband. Remote workers can access critical business services – from email to data-heavy ERP and CRM systems – as easily as if they were in the office. So financiers can trade in real-time, customer relationship teams can provide quality service from remote locations and mobile sales staff can spend less time travelling back to the office to update key applications. The connection will always be live to the corporate network in a fully mobile environment, the access speed high and the productivity gains impressive. Such applications underline the huge potential of wireless broadband, the market for which is beginning to gather significant momentum. Wireless broadband: a gathering momentum As well as WiMAX, wireless broadband can be provisioned using ‘mesh’ technology. Self-provisioning and self-healing, mesh systems are quickly installed and are the ideal solution to flood urban areas or campuses with wireless broadband; the technology is especially applicable to metro networks. Unlicensed radio frequencies can also be used to deliver wireless broadband services. The technologies are proprietary with systems typically operating in the 900MHz, 2.4GHz, 5.2GHz and 5.8GHz spectrums. The services that can be supported include VoIP, fixed broadband, video, and data point-to-point backhaul for wireless Internet services. Due to the fact that it’s on the road to becoming a truly pervasive technology and one that’s based on efficient, low cost interoperable infrastructure, we believe that WiMAX will drive the availability of wireless broadband. In 2007, networks supporting WiMAX mobility will be launched and by 2008 we project that widespread adoption will begin to gather pace. In quantifying this perspective, Rethink Research talked to 200 global service providers to predict that WiMAX investment will rocket from the current 22 per cent of all wireless broadband spending, to 63 per cent by 2009. In the same timeframe, Research and Markets believes that WiMAX will generate US$13.8 billion in revenues. A number of high-profile installations are already being built across the globe. In Pakistan, Wateen Telecom is constructing network coverage in major conurbations – metropolitan areas – and closing the digital divide in the region with a nationwide WiMAX voice and broadband. While in the US by 2008, 100 million people will be able to access a range of advanced voice and data services over Sprint Nextel’s WiMAX wireless broadband system. With its IP DNA, WiMAX is easy to incorporate into fixed and wireless networks. It will be complemented by the integration of all IP core systems through the IP Multimedia Subsystem, IMS. While IMS is being implemented gradually into telecoms networks, wireless broadband connected into an IP core provides fast voice and data transport across a complete end-to-end IP framework. Such next generation networks provide huge scope for service innovation, but they also provide an enticing channel for competitors to market their services. Understanding new business models Building a fast wireless broadband network could attract a range of traffic. Think about the VoIP companies that are currently restricted to fixed connections, or content providers who could bypass operator portals to provide mobile-device friendly content or, games companies that could market over-the-air access for data intensive team-play that could otherwise overload network capacity and degrade performance. As the wireless broadband market develops, it’s important for service providers to assess how to protect their transport assets and we’ve outlined strategies that will differentiate operators from the crowd of encroaching competitors: End-to-end service – Service providers, operators, are the only businesses with the experience and capability to populate the market with content-friendly devices. In addition to the transport they own robust, ready-made billing systems. It’s a value-added platform to market to content owners. Quality Assurance – Guaranteed quality of service metrics can be offered to content owners; this is particularly important for broadcasters and sectors like the finance industry planning to launch real-time trading over wireless broadband. Embrace popular sites – While consumers are used to free Internet services, it’s likely that for services such as VoIP, a small charge will be levied for using the wireless broadband transport. Prices must be highly competitive, but even a small fee for access to sites like Skype will generate significant revenues. Promote security and distribution – For media owners seeking to generate traffic over wireless broadband, the best way to attract users is to optimise the service experience. The best way to achieve this is to partner with service providers who have the know-how and network capabilities to effectively protect digital rights and understand how best to cache and re-purpose content. Spend tracking – Service providers are in the position to see who is looking at what on line, how long they spend there and the dollars they spend. Metrics and evaluation are the currency of the Internet age and service providers own them. A seamless experience – The mobile device provides a flexible range of communications, a gateway to access virtually any content, a range of services personalised to the subscriber, and the ability to apply presence technology to make daily lives more convenient. Offer the right service mix and rather than being disenfranchised from the new service environment, service providers will lead it. A unique opportunity WiMAX has the credentials of a successful technology. It has widespread industry support, it can be provisioned using standard off-the-shelf technologies, and a ready-made market is heating up. In-Stat predicts that by 2008 over 10.35 million of the laptops shipped will include WiMAX connectivity. While there are challenges for mobile broadband and service providers who opt for WiMAX, a step back to review the bigger picture only suggests that the answer to ‘what next’ for the technology is ‘rapid advancement’. The Internet has had an impact, unimaginable just a decade ago, on the way we are entertained, educated and communicate, but by the end of 2005, only 215 million homes worldwide had access to broadband. Compare this to the wireless industry, where we saw a billion people connected to mobile devices during the past two and a half years alone. The figures underline just how versatile wireless is and how quickly it can pollinate markets with technology – a pattern that’s set to be repeated with wireless broadband. As economies of scale appear, and wireless broadband technology falls in price, more WiMAX compatible devices such as laptops, PCs, PDAs and mobiles will become available. Initially, this will happen in mature markets, but as prices fall further, these devices will also become available in emerging regions. It’s a development that will provide the opportunity to offer broadband access at a fraction of the cost of wired alternatives. It also sheds new light on the future delivery of digital communications – it’s likely to be founded on wireless broadband.