Dueling Platforms, Happy Users

Carl Weinschenk

Initiatives to provide mobile multimedia and convergence services are rolling out after years of development.


The big winners undoubtedly are consumers and businesses. The dynamics shape up perfectly: There are a large and growing number of compelling multimedia and convergence-based applications, each of which needs the widest possible exposure at the lowest price point. These are to be delivered on two new and largely parallel delivery networks: wireless (which includes WiMax, Wi-Fi and related approaches) and 3.5G/4G cellular.


It's long been the common wisdom that the two delivery systems will both compete and cooperate. Now the concept is becoming a reality.


Things should get interesting during the next few months. The Echostar/DIRECTV consortium dropped out of the Federal Communications Commission's advanced wireless spectrum auction. Word is that the companies -- the two biggest DBS players -- may partner with WiMax provider Clearwire to develop much-needed data capabilities. Clearwire may supplement its footprint with cellular capacity gained through a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) deal.


If you think the Clearwire/DBS flirtation is unimportant, consider that the two main players involved are Rupert Murdoch (who controls DirecTv) and Craig McCaw (who heads Clearwire). These are gentlemen who don't spend a lot of time tilting at windmills.


Moreover, it's not even the most important news item on the cellular/wireless front. That spot is reserved for Sprint Nextel, which says that it will use WiMax to provide its 4G services.


The interplay of WiMax and 3.5G/4G cellular is a complex topic because they are two platform families that do much the same thing. There will be enough partner-changing and alliance-shifting to satisfy a soap opera fan.


Confusing? Yes. And it's a good confusion, since the evolution of the two platforms at roughly the same time will lead to lower costs and better service.

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