Licensed vs. Unlicensed Bandwidth
Motorola announced its hybrid Wi-Fi/GSM/GPRS phone today, expected by the fourth quarter of this year. They are clearly targeting a business market for the devices, with Avaya and Proxim as partners. This is an intriguing move as cell phones have not typically been purchased by the enterprise...
A number of observers expressed consternation that Motorola's implementation was not "open" and was a "very limited device." At Techdirt, Mike Masnick complained that the phone really isn't that interesting due to its limitations... He wrote "This is really just a gimmick to try to sell a new mobile phone to business users."
Over at The Feature Carlo Longino wrote that the phone's "...use of closed systems and proprietary hardware doesn't bode well for its success." And Wi-Fi Networking News spells out the issue -- business users must buy an Avaya PBX and Proxim 802.11 Wi-Fi gear to make the new phones work.
But the story that isn't being written is the more interesting one -- that handset manufacturers are demonstrating that phones can be economically built with both GSM/GPRS and Wi-Fi standards. This dual use of licensed and unlicensed bandwidth in the same device is going to start a tidal wave of change in the mobile world. So what if I can't "hand off" a call from Wi-Fi to GSM? How many times does the GSM network drop your call anyway? When I am moving, I will make a GSM call. If I can stand still for awhile, in a hot spot, I will use Wi-Fi.
The more important opportunity is for users of unlicensed bandwidth to create pricing and innovation pressure on the slow moving licensed bandwidth world. When large companies control the airwaves, it seems there is little innovation and prices are high. The more competition, the more this equation changes. So having a number of mobile operators competing in a market, whether Europe or the US, has helped a great deal to lower prices and increase innovation. Now we open the floodgates altogether and make FREE the low end of the price range and innovation limited only by the imagination of every garage start-up.
This will put unprecedented pressure on the mobile operators and is exactly what we were thinking of when we named this blog