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Mobile network operators roll over and die

And "communications companies" are born

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For communication services the medium will become irrelevant to the point that many consumers won't know what network technology they are using at any given time. They will just know that their service fails more often in certain places, as the hiccups in such converged services become more obvious. This is already happening with BT Fusion and similar services, and the enormous potential for cost reduction will continue to drive both businesses and consumers into untested technologies which should improve in stability as the year progresses.

2006 saw the Institute of Electrical and Electromagnetic Engineers (the IEEE) come under fire for having bureaucratic processes open to abuse and manipulation. Clever manoeuvring by WiMedia Alliance saw the IEEE completely bypassed in the drafting of the Ultra Wide Band standard, and the industry forced to endorse a fait accompli.

Meanwhile, the failure of the 802.11n group to endorse a next-generation Wi-Fi standard has led the Wi-Fi Alliance to say it'll certify devices conforming to the draft standard even if these turn out to be incompatible with the eventual standard, should it ever be agreed.

Many have questioned if the IEEE can continue to hold such a central role in setting wireless standards when its procedures are so open to abuse. It certainly seems likely that future innovation will come from elsewhere, and the IEEE will see its role reduced to certification-after-the-fact, if at all.

The wireless business has had a long adolescence; tantrums and euphoric moments in equal measure, along with predictions of enormous potential which almost completely fail to be realised. With the formation of communications companies, it seems the industry has come of age, with the big players ready to sit alongside the big financial and IT-service companies and worldwide service suppliers.

But while convergence technology might be reaching something of a plateau, and the glaciers have carved out a mountainous industrial landscape, the real innovation is still to come. With the technology and industry now in place, the application revolution is only just beginning, and that is what will make 2007 such an interesting year. ®

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