TECH TALK: Disruptions: Access Devices, Networks, Connectivity

Access Devices: PCs to Mobiles

Consider this amazing fact: last year, mobile phones drew nearly a million new users every day. 2005 will see the global mobile user base cross two billion. In comparison, the installed base of computers is about 700 million. The contrast is even more stark in the emerging markets. By 2005-end, India will have about 16 million computers, and over 60 million mobiles. China has 40 million computers and 350 million mobiles. Any way one slices it, for an increasing majority, the mobile phone will be their first and only computing device.

What is interesting is that the mobile is always-on, always-available and a personal device. Never before in our lives have more than two of these conditions been met and now suddenly, all three are met simultaneously. This makes possible all kinds of new applications. Consider this view [as mentioned in Business Week] from Qualcomms Paul Jacobs about features of the cell phone of the future: smart wireless TV broadcasts, built-in glucometers that help diabetics track blood-sugar levels, restaurant reviews that zap onto the screen as you walk past a joint. “The phone will be your personal alter ego in cyberspace,” Paul says. “Whether it’s finances, or my music, or my blog, all those kinds of things will happen through my phone.”

Next-Generation Networks: Separate, Disparate to IP-Core

For the most part, voice has been carried separately from data, while video has had its own network. Now, it is all changing as next-generation networks built around IP at their core, and voice and video are digitised. Voice becomes yet another application as is already happening with VoIP, and network TV shifts to networked TV (to borrow a phrase from Esther Dysons Release 1.0). IMS, MPLS and SIP are some of the building blocks for these networks.

This triple play is becoming a quadruple play with the integration of mobility, as this note from Nortel outlines: New Converged services are value-rich services which enable both seamless mobility between the wired and wireless worlds as well as application ubiquity – all translating to any time, anywhere, any device access to applications. These services represent a blend of multimedia services which will enable carriers to offer differentiated quadruple-play services. For example, in the future, consumers can experience our Multimedia Communications Services features over their televisions, including the ability to answer email, instant messages and conduct a teleconference – all from the comfort of a living room sofa. Users in the future also will be able to access their subscription television service from multiple different devices instead of just their home TV.

Connectivity: Intermittent, Narrowband to Always-On, Broadband

For all of us in India long-used to dial-up and unreliable Internet access, hope is at hand. This world of occasionally-connected computing is giving way to always-on connectivity over DSL and cable. In addition, the 2.5G wireless networks also ensure that our mobile phones are also always connected. The other thread is the increasing availability of bandwidth. Even as users in South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong experience affordable multi-megabit access, this will extend to other markets also. And change life and lifestyles forever.

In an always-on world, data and applications can reside in the cloud, and we as users can access the information we need from the device we want independent of location. This has been talked about for long, but the next few years are seeing the mix of access devices and networks to bring us truly ubiquitous and pervasive connectivity.

Tomorrow: Info Access, Publishing and Software

TECH TALK Disruptions+T

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.