Will Mobile Broadband Replace Wi-Fi?
3G cellular data service may reinvent mobile broadband
Mobile broadband means a high-speed Internet connection from a portable device on the go. Most of you get that now with Wi-Fi on your laptop at a hotspot, whether itís provided by your own in-home wireless router or by an access point (AP) in the airport, at a hotel or convention center, or in the clichť coffee shop. We all love this capability. But hotspots arenít the only way to get a high-speed connection.
You can also get one of those data cards or USB modems from your wireless carrier to plug into your laptop. They work really well, and you donít have to stay within the hotspotís limited coverage range, which can be a problem in some cases. You pay dearly for that extra mobility, as such data plans can cost an extra $50 to $70 per month. But it may be worth it if you really need the connection while moving around. Now, get ready for this cellular mobile broadband connection to come built into your laptop just as you now get Wi-Fi in virtually all laptops.
The GSM Association has announced its intent to create a new category of mobile broadband devices as an alternative to Wi-Fi. Known as Mobile Broadband and featuring its own service mark, this new alternative initially will be built into laptops and eventually in other portable devices (see Firms Unite To Create Always-On Mobile Broadband). When you turn your laptop on, you will get a connection right away as long as you are within a service area that supports 3G or better cellular data service.
The launch of this new initiative is backed by a group of 17 heavy-hitting companies, including 3 Group, Asus, Dell, ECS, Ericsson, Gemalto, Lenovo, Microsoft, Orange, Qualcomm, Telefonica Europe, Telecom Italia, TeliaSonera, T-Mobile, Toshiba, and Vodafone. Some other big-time companies also are quietly supporting the effort.
Today, more than 55 million people subscribe to some mobile broadband service in 91 countries. Thatís expected to grow to 59 million by the end of the year. Some projections put the number of such subscribers as high as 300 million by 2010. If we do get the broadband laptop, these predictions might come true.
The GSMA says that the initiative will initially support broadband carriers using High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) technology, which is an extension of the 3GPPís WCDMA 3G standard. It eventually would also support Long Term Evolution (LTE), the 4G technology that will be adopted by most of the worldís carriers, including AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon in the U.S.
Is this the end of Wi-Fi? Most experts think there will always be a place for Wi-Fi. I basically agree, as sometimes it will provide the best connection for the lowest cost, like in the home or at the office. Of course, you could get rid of your high-speed cable or DSL line in favor of Mobile Broadband. I can see that happening too, someday.
Many consumers are shedding their wired phones. Some will also shed their wired telecom connection with DSL for all-wireless access. Asi es la vida, or ďso is life,Ē in the wireless world. I canít imagine what this will do to the already shaky metro Wi-Fi business, though. Mesh Wi-Fi probably wonít compete well with Mobile Broadband, but in some areas it is free.
WiMAX will probably take the really big hit. I suspect all the WiMAX supporters will really hate Mobile Broadband. Wasnít the 802.16e-2005 mobile WiMAX standard supposed to fill this need for mobile broadband service? Arenít some laptop companies thinking of building a WiMAX/Wi-Fi combo into their products? What about this, Intel? Sprint Nextel and Clearwire need to get a move on and roll out XOHM faster to stay competitive too (see 4G Wireless Networking Launched In Baltimore).
Maybe we will get a choice from laptop vendorsóMobile Broadband, Wi-Fi, or WiMAX or some combination thereof. Provide something for everyone and let the marketplace sort it out. Itís the American way. The laptop already is morphing into a box full of radios and antennas with a PC attached.
When will we begin to see embedded Mobile Broadband? The GSMA and their partners in the effort didnít give any dates, but it cannot be far off. With multistandard radio technology chipsets like the Gobi from Qualcomm, available now, it should not be long (see Gobi Certified For AT&T Mobile Broadband). Itís more fun and games in the mobile world.
- GSM Association
- Firms Unite To Create Always-On Mobile Broadband)
- 4G Wireless Networking Launched In Baltimore
- Gobi Certified For AT&T Mobile Broadband
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