It's a Wireless World

Carl Weinschenk

With the Nexus One announcement, a prediction for 2010 already is on its way to fulfillment: The gradual transition from a predominantly wired to predominantly wireless world will enter a phase in which the triumph of the latter is an obvious and accepted fact.


Most transitions are gradual. Folks are so caught up in the details and day-to-day events that fundamental changes in the big picture are not always recognized until the transformation nearly is complete.


The wired world, of course, is far from dead. Wired initiatives plod on and good progress continues to be made. But a slightly faster version of Ethernet, a better way of sorting through packets to more smoothly mix voice, video and data or some other incremental improvement doesn't fire the imagination of the masses. Sleek new smartphones -- and even sleek feature phones -- do.


The worlds of wireless and cellular are inherently more dramatic and improvements are more obvious. Indeed, there are several reasons why wireless is winning, and winning so loudly: Advances in a young sector generally are more exciting to non-experts than small gains in established fields. The popularity of wireless/cellular is also a budgetary issue for providers: If all else is equal -- throughput, security, ease of use, potential services, etc. -- approaches that don't require backhoes will win every time.


There is news today in the wireless/cellular world besides the introduction of the Android-powered Nexus One. The Obama Administration is asking the Federal Communications Commission to take steps to open up more wireless spectrum. It's only a request, but since FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is an Obama appointee (and friend) it's likely to gain favor. At the same time, Google-presumably employees not burning the midnight oil on the Nexus One launch-is asking to become a white space administrator.


White space is the spectrum vacated by broadcast television channels in the digital transition. It will be used on an unlicensed basis. Different channels are available in different areas, and a set of appointed administrators from within the industry will help manage the system. Experts say that white space offers startling potential, especially in rural areas with fewer television stations. The names of the companies that seek to become involved in the white space sector-starting with Google -- suggest how promising it is.


Wired and wireless announcements will keep on coming. One thing is certain: The most interesting ones will involve wireless and cellular communications.

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