Is 3G a Victim of the Hype Machine?

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The Democrats won. That's their big problem: Now they have to do more than complain. They have to govern. If history is any guide, it won't be long until people call them failures.


3G is facing the same sort of challenge. The platform has gradually been rolling out, but naysayers already are calling it a flop.


The heart of this WirelessWeek article is an interview with Dick Lynch, Verizon Wireless's CTO and EVP. He says suggestions that the platform is a failure probably can be attributed to the fact that it was hyped too aggressively. This set expectations too high and almost guaranteed disappointment.


It's an issue that is as old as new product development itself. People have to over-promise in order to get mindshare, buy-in and investment. How many startups begin presentations to venture capitalists or other groups critical to their success with warnings that the new technology will be a long slog, lucky to break even after a decade or so? Indeed, the platforms that seem like overnight sensations are those that are able break their teeth in relative obscurity. The Internet is the best example of this.


In the case of 3G, it's important to recognize a couple of things about the landscape. The first is that these networks, while certainly far faster than the 2G platforms they are displacing, still are noticeably slower than the multi-megabit DSL, cable modem or fiber platforms against which they inevitably will be compared.


It also is true that consumers and corporate users are still trying to figure out what to do with 3G. It's one thing to have the raw speed available, it's another to have applications that take advantage of it. As Lynch says in the WirelessWeek story, it's going to take time.


There is a natural progression to things. A technology that still is in development is said to solve myriad problems and offer potent new services. Then it rolls out. Far from revolutionizing the world, the technology experiences significant growing pains. Detractors suggest that it is a disappointment. A middle ground eventually is found and the platform gets a shot at the market. It then succeeds or fails on its real merits.


3G is in this cycle now. There is hope, however: So much new technology has been introduced during the past decade that people are wise to the hype and disappointment cycle. This makes us hopeful that cooler heads likely will prevail.


The truth, people will realize, is probably the same as the truth about the Democrats: Both the 3G and the new folks in D.C. will exert their influence gradually, experience a mix of success and failure, and never be the cure-all promised while they were on the drawing board.