Vodafone CEO finds wireless too complicated
Why can't things be more simple like when I were a lad?
Mobile World Congress Vodafone CEO Arun Sarin today called for wireless unity, saying it's now so complicated it would be better if everyone just stopped using different operating systems and network technologies.
In his keynote, he pointed out that we're currently using between 30 and 40 different operating systems on mobile phones, and if customers could just decide which ones they want and not buy any of the others, things would be much easier. If that won't work, then perhaps the GSM Association could issue some recommendations.
He's also unhappy that 4G is fragmenting into two incompatible technologies - WiMAX and LTE (Long Term Evolution) - and says it would be better for everyone if the two standards were merged into one.
The WiMAX Forum responded that it'd love to see a single standard, and would let operators decide that WiMAX is the superior technology: pointing out that its standard is at least finished and being deployed, as opposed to the still-under-development LTE.
The forum paraded three of its deploying networks at the congress today, only two of which had funding from Intel – the UK's Freedom4 (formerly Pipex Wireless) and KDDI's unnamed Japanese deployment both listed Intel as a shareholder, Sprint being the other exhibit. Intel is a fierce proponent of WiMAX - as holder of significant patents on the technology it stands to gain through its popularity.
WiMAX is also pushing itself as the ideal technology to deploy at 700MHz, in case you know any countries where that spectrum might be available.
LTE, meanwhile, is not standing still, with an announcement today that Alcatel-Lucent and NEC are to work together to create LTE infrastructure solutions. This deal is also about getting Alcatel-Lucent into Japan (where NEC has NTT DoCoMo as a customer) and NEC into America (where Alcatel-Lucent has been trialling LTE with Verizon), but working together can only create greater interoperability and should speed the development of stable LTE equipment.
Vodafone's CEO stopped short of asking for regulation to restrict choices, but pointed out that developing for different platforms and networks was a waste of resources.
But by that logic we should all just accept the inevitable and cast our desktop Macs into the ocean, for the sake of platform simplicity. ®
What if WiMAX beats LTE ?
WiMax is primarily an IP infrastructure. SIP / Skype / whatever will happily run on top of it. LTE on the other hand is a more insidious creature that comes bundled with IMS - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IP_Multimedia_Subsystem - which is just a way for the carriers to continue gouging their customers by preserving the current pricing structure over an IP network. The current structure has FAIL written all over it, hence the EU commissions need to rein in exorbitant roaming charges.
WiMax has the potential to introduce a flat affordable IP roaming arrangement, and rid us of antiquated differentiated asymmetric billing rates, which never has made any sense. ( Why different price to call A->B than B->A ? )
The nice thing about standards ....
I tend to agree with Sarin. And he could take a lead by getting in behind WiMAX to show how committed he and Vodafone are to his plea for unity. Vodafone, as the worlds largest mobile network operator, should take a lead in supporting and deploying ready-for-market WiMAX into its existing network of towers.
But the cynic in me says that instead we are much more likely to see Vodafone work with the other network operators on LTE as a rival, and deliberately incompatible, technology. We can expect America and Japan to continue their line of isolationism and market protection (they can barely handle the concept of GSM and UMTS). And so the theme will continue.
But in an ideal world - the first to market would win (WiMAX), be deployed globally, and the customer be given free reign to roam wherever they wanted without being kicked into touch for daring to use their mobile device in another land.
Paris, because she likes a bit of inter-compatibility
Don't use that! Use this.
Don't use one of the many wireless technologies out there! Use OURS!!