Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Will Sprint's Wimax finally bring the Open Mobile Economy?

Jan Michael Hess from Berlin, Germany, is preaching the "Open Mobile Economy", yet for quite a long time: Open mobile networks, open services and open devices. This means basically that mobile network providers, like Vodafone, provide their mobile internet bandwith for reasonable flatrate prices and their costumers can do with it whatever they want. No closed portal sites on mobile phones, no VoIP blocking and no exorbitant data prices for SMS, because people write mobile e-mails. Just plain internet access everywhere and using Flickr, Google, Skype and Youtube like you do at home.

A nice dream so far. Others are even dream of a "wireless net neutrality".

But Hess knows that it could be possible. It seems to be an open secret that mobile 3G networks have about 90 per cent unused data capacity. People shy away from using them because of the high data prices. So it is a good move that the German MVNO Simyo recently cut his data prices by 97 per Cent. The mobile Megabyte now costs only 24 Euro Cent. But this is still no "Open Mobile Economy" since it is no flatrate and the service works only on a GPRS network and not in 3G. Most mobile network operators still prefer unused business opportunities instead of giving mobile internet access for a low price. That's because they paid billions for their 3G frecuencies, rollout and hardware subsidies.

But maybe a new technology, Wimax, will bring the story to a good end and the "Open Mobile Economy" will finally arrive? An article by Michael Mace tells a things about the US mobile network operator Sprint that are nearly unbelievable:
Yes, I know Sprint's serious about WiMax -- it's spending more than $2.5 billion to build out a mobile WiMax network across the US. That's old news. The surprise to me is the business model Sprint says it'll deploy on that network. That hasn't gotten much coverage at all, but I think it's critically important. If you believe what Sprint says, its WiMax network will be totally open: any device, any application, without any contract required.
As you probably know Wimax is something like Wifi but faster and with much broader coverage. While Wifi cells cover only some meters of area Wimax cells can be some kilometers wide. The bandwith can compete with fixed broadband access and is much faster than nowadays 3G. The first Wimax equipped laptops, PDAs and mobile phones are being presented in these days at the 3GSM World Congress 2007 in Barcelona. Wimax is like DSL but without wires. That's why it's often used to bring Broadband to rural areas. Sprint has already announced to build out a nationwide WiMax network across the US.

Michael Mace is an industry insider and principal at Rubicon Consulting. He summed up some information he got from companies, news and an interesting panel discussion:
Okay, so let's add this up: an open, broadly-deployed, high-speed wireless network that welcomes any device, open APIs that allow any application, and no contract required. This is everything that the computer and Internet industries have been asking of the operators, and Sprint is apparently saying yes to all of it. The audience at the Churchill Club should have given this plan a standing ovation, but the information came out in dribs and drabs during a 90-minute panel, and it was very hard to assemble all the pieces.

The killer app is open access to the Internet.
That seems to be the "Open Mobile Economy" that Jan Michael Hess and others have prayed for so long. Will it finally arrive, bypassing the mobile phone companies? Wimax works in other frecuencies that were much cheaper than those for 3G. Other, smaller companies have got them.

Maybe we finally get our open mobile broadband for reasonable prices?

It would be very funny to also use it for phone calls.

1 comment:

  1. This is all very interesting -- Wimax does appear to be gaining traction, including the recent Los Angeles 'Towerstream' deployment ... some of us students at USC Annenberg are looking at how to connect LA and the Mayor's recent WiFi announcement to WiMax ... does anyone know how to identify spectrum space availability in the WiMax 2-11GHz band?

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