04 Oct For cities, WiMAX reality should replace W-Fi fantasy
Attending the WiMAX WORLD Conference at McCormick Place last week should have been an eye-opener to anyone that attended. There needs to be some big investments in network infrastructure, and it cannot delegated to a third-party service provider who is offering a “free service,” according to some of the executives that spoke in the panel discussions.
This just reinforces what I have said all along. Nothing is free, but several cities took a hands-off approach from an investment standpoint. They brought in a third-party to build a wireless network to give them the benefits of ubiquitous wireless connectivity for their cities without putting any money into it. It doesn’t work that way.
As I pointed out in columns back in June and August:
“Anyone thinking that third-party Wi-Fi is the ultimate answer is fooling themselves. There is no getting around the issue that a network infrastructure is a big capital investment that can provide great results if implemented correctly.
In many cases, cities didn’t turn to seasoned professionals. They would have told them to get something more substantial or that the network topologies being cited were inadequate. Instead, they bought off on the hype of a new wonder technology along with its evangelists.
Just as you wouldn’t expect firefighters to use garden hoses to put out fires, you can’t expect network infrastructures to deliver huge amounts of bandwidth if you’re using a wireless network that was never designed to be a fire hose of bandwidth.
If we explain it that way, perhaps people will get it right instead of getting burned by inadequate network designs.”
Whoever was advising these cities on trying to get a “free service” to add into the infrastructure without any investment (but keep the rights to control and oversee the services) was just wrong. Their RFPs are also worthless because those who respond will match it with a worthless network.
It was clearly pointed out at one of the sessions that both providers and cities were “re-assessing” their “free network” concept, which actually killed some of “first deals.” Some service providers have gotten more selective in looking at municipal opportunities.
Bottom line, RFPs coming out from various cities that want something-for-nothing are being passed over. You need a real commitment from the municipality. That just reinforces what I have always taught in marketing technology: “Learn how to walk away from bad business.”
It was interesting to see that some industry executives were more apologetic for the fizzling out of some municipal Wi-Fi projects than being evangelists for adding wireless capabilities to cities.
We’re cutting edge? Guess again
One keynote speaker gave a good overview of why we are slipping here in the United States. He did not say or directly imply it, but that’s what I got out of it.
Dr. Won Pyo Hong, who is the executive vice president of Samsung’s Telecom Systems, pointed out some interesting developments in South Korea, which seems to be more advanced in its networks as well as its devices.
He focused on the fact that the Korean market is very demanding for wireless connectivity and they already have external Mobile WiMAX devices. Korean early adopters can be categorized with this:
• 74 percent individuals.
• 80 percent are males.
• 66 percent are in their 30s and 40s.
• 26 percent are entrepreneurs.
Some other interesting facts that he pointed out are:
• The first click on Internet is at three years old.
• 51.6 percent of three- to five-year-olds access the Internet 4.3 hours per day.
(Source: MIC KOREA NIPA 2007)
Playing catch up
What did I get out of his informative speech? We need to catch up, and in a hurry.
We are well beyond the Information Age and even past the Internet Age. I would say that we are at the Mobile Internet Age or Mobile Broadband Age, where people have high-speed access from a mobile device that includes rich video capability. Aiming for anything less than that is like saying we want to move from records to eight-track tapes in the age of downloads to iPODs and MP3 players.
There has been a big shift from searching the web for text-based information to adding video content and social networks that mix all of this content together. Access for this type of content has to be capable from handheld devices and not just desktop or laptop computers.
Going the extra mile in development of network architecture and applying technology to enterprises has always been a strategic directive from my standpoint. My philosophy has always been you have to spend money to make money. Unfortunately, most executives would rather cut corners or not even undertake a major technology upgrade for their organization right now. That is very shortsighted in light of what is being generated worldwide.
Being on a cutting-edge project, and creating something no one else has, is a great endeavor. Those endeavors are probably the best investment a public or private organization can undertake.
Sprint’s XOHM service looks to be very promising and was discussed by its CTO, Barry West, at one of the discussions. They have partnered with Motorola and NOKIA to offer a total solution for users that want both mobility and broadband. This is an endeavor that they are currently working on and have committed to cover many markets by next year.
Butterfly trumps Treo
Many of the trade show exhibitors had some interesting products and services that will have traction in the industry.
You can tell that the wireless services are behind in the U.S. because products like the handheld, folding SAMSUNG Butterfly (SPH-P9000) are available in South Korea today, but are not yet available in the U.S. It has a decent-sized video monitor as well as a keyboard that you can work with. It is WiMAX enabled and has Bluetooth, camera, mini-computer (Windows XP); you name it, it’s got it. It is the second device on this video.
Simply put, the Butterfly will make obsolete the Treo, the Blackberry, and any other device that has a miniature keyboard.
Carlini-ism: Just as one course in first-aid doesn’t make you a brain surgeon, one course in networks or a certificate doesn’t make you a network infrastructure consultant.
Recent articles by James Carlini
• Think Wisconsin has Wi-Fi woes? Check out the Windy City
• Think Wisconsin has Wi-Fi woes? Check out the Windy City
• James Carlini: Bandwidth fairy tales: When will the “Three Little Pigs” get it right?
• James Carlini: Municipal Wi-Fi “experts” have egg on their faces
• James Carlini: How good (or bad) is your local emergency plan?
This article previously appeared in MidwestBusiness.com, and was reprinted with its permission.
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