6. Networks are becoming higher speed and ubiquitous.
Broadband is happening on both wired and wireless networks. While countries like Japan and South Korea have had broadband for a few years, it is only now becoming widespread in the US and other markets. In India, the early signs are positive even through telecom operators still tend to do metering of traffic. Broadband is now an accepted reality. Even on wireless networks, the data speeds are improving. China and India are on the verge of announcing terms for 3G networks. WiFi hotspots are spreading and then there is the promise of WiMax on the near horizon. We are on our way to living in an envelope of connectivity.
Fred Wilson: In Frank Barnako’s Internet Daily, he quotes Kevin McKenzie, chief executive officer of JiWire.com, who says: Wi-Fi is going to be ubiquitous. You’re going to see more municipal hot zones going from announcement to reality. We’ve seen a huge increase in shops offering free Internet access as a way to get people in their doors. Free and ubiquitous wifi is important because it makes access available to anyone with a wifi enabled device, levels the playing field in a host of ways, and makes wifi based telephony a reality.
Internet News: Could 2006 be the year that Ultra Wideband starts to make personal area networks happen in the home for tech-savvy and media-loving consumers? If Freescale, the semi-conductor spin-off of Motorola, has any say, it will. The company has said it hopes to see UWB transmission rates hit a full gigabit per second, and it hopes to get its chipsets in more devices in 2006. Plus, after two wireless networking industry groups, The WiMedia Alliance and the MultiBand OFDM Alliance Special Interest Group (MBOA-SIG), merged in 2005, some of the squabbling over formats and protocols could be streamlined for products to ship. Then, there’s that 802.11n high-speed spec for the somewhat competing Wi-Fi wireless networking standard. UWB supporters say both have their place, but that UWB is better-suited for home networking and zipping media from one TV to another device. UWB’s transmission rates, at 40 to 50 megabits per second, as well as its ability to support networking via the Bluetooth standard, puts it in a position to make headway in the home in 2006We also think wireless USB (WUSB) will be the most “visible” new technology of 2006. There are countless billions of peripheral devices connected by USB cables. With WUSB, all those cables could disappear. The WUSB specification which was formalized in 2005 and is backwards compatible with existing USB connections. That means the countless billions of USB peripherals have a simple wireless upgrade path. The first WUSB devices are expected by the second quarter of 2006. Look for the technology to gradually displace Bluetooth and Infrared as the dominant wireless interconnect for personal devices and peripherals.
David Kirkpatrick in Fortune: Myprediction is that telcos will become more powerful Internet service providers. Mark Anderson, who writes the Strategic News Service newsletter and has a keen sense of communication trends, says cable companies, telcos, cellphone companies, and other ISPs are becoming generic bit providers that will compete solely on how cheaply they can deliver digital contentfrom phone calls to TV shows. But telcos may have some advantages over the other players. Wolfgang Ziebart, CEO of Infineon, recently told me that the German chipmaker will ramp up production of its so-called VDSL2 chip in early 2006. This chip can send data at the Holy Grail rate of 100 megabits per second over ordinary copper phone wire for distances of more than 600 feet. That may not seem very far, but it represents a much greater capacity to transmit data than has previously been available on copper wires. This will enable phone companies to avoid stringing expensive optical fiber all the way to consumers’ home computers. Instead, telcos can install optical fiber cables to hubs and then use traditional pre-existing copper phone lines to connect them to nearby households. Texas Instruments and other chipmakers are working on similar technology.
Bruce Perens: “Cellular Carriers are Just Carriers. Cellular carriers have chased the dream of value-added content, served through feature phones, as a revenue enhancer. But they’re ignoring history: remember the first generation of internet providers? Compuserve, Prodigy, Genie, GNN, and AOL all worked hard to provide unique content and enhance the user experience. They lost out to a second generation of internet providers that were just high-speed data pipes, while content moved to carrier-independent entities like Google and the user experience was engineered by software application providers like Netsape, Microsoft, and eventually the Mozilla project. Edge-enhanced GPRS is already available in most U.S. markets, thanks to the conversion of American cellular infrastructure to GSM. It provides a means to access the global internet and ignore carrier content. And that’s what feature-phone users will do.”
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