Innovator TCM Will Face Tough Competitors

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Perhaps the greatest guarantee that the technology sector will flourish despite momentary setbacks-such as a bad economy-is the almost unstoppable will of people to innovate. A great example occurred last week in Syracuse, N.Y., where a group of Israeli scientists unveiled a VoIP cellular project that was, according to this InformationWeek story, five years in the making.


The attraction of the approach is that the system uses unlicensed-and thus inexpensive-2.4 GHz spectrum. The piece says that the company is not seeking investors, has worked through myriad issues-such as roaming and interference in that crowded space-and had built the entire system in house.


It is unclear from the story how the costs and other issues associated with the TCM Mobile project will compare to the two nascent 4G platforms, Long Term Evolution and WiMax . It does appear, on first glance, that the technology eventually will compete, assuming the TCM project gets that far.


The problem facing TCM, no matter what the elegance of their technology and efficiency of their execution, is that they are in a competitive space in which many powerful players already have made significant investments and chosen their dance partners. Nobody can say precisely what TCM's end game is-whether it has Utopian dreams of competing against the various entrenched players mano a mano (or techo a techo), seeks to get bought, or accepts a future as a niche play. In any case, it faces an uphill battle.


One hint in the story is that the project started five years ago. A very different landscape exists when the clock is wound back to 2004. Perhaps the rationale then was stronger than it is a half-decade later. That half decade has seen companies invest billions of dollars in research and development, run multiple field trials and, at least in the case of WiMax, begin serious deployments.


TCM may find that the business road ahead is even trickier to navigate than the engineer road that they apparently have ably traversed to this point. Such speculation notwithstanding, it's clear that the TMC folks are to be commended for executing on their original concept.