Realizing the Promise of Mobile Broadband ... Everywhere
This article reviews some of the factors that have impeded progress, recent advances leading to the improvements in user experience, and identifies trends on the anvil that will further the subscriber's mobile broadband experience.There are three fundamental ingredients which all have to excel individually and collectively to deliver a rich mobile broadband experience to the user. These ingredients are devices, applications and networks. Since they are all part of the same ecosystem, especially from an end user perspective, any lack of capability in one of these areas will impact the others. In fact, it is shortcomings in one or more of these components that inhibited expected growth in consumption of mobile broadband, until recently.
One of the major impediments to realizing the potential of mobile broadband was devices. The first and second waves of smartphones in the earlier part of this decade were largely limited to voice and e-mail in practicehardly the mobile utopia promised by industry pundits. This cycle was broken by the iPhone and now we have a new generation of smartphones available from all the major vendors that are capable of delivering voice, streaming video, email, location-based services, and a full Internet experience. Some of the capability improvements that smartphones have seen include:
The second factor that was holding back consumption of mobile broadband was lack of compelling applications. Today there are many applications available, ranging from enterprise vertical applications and Software as a Service (SaaS) delivered from cloud computing infrastructures, to consumer applications using shared location information, like Loopt.
The third ingredient which is necessary for delivering a great wireless experience is a capable network or networks. As device capabilities and compelling applications become available, consumption increases in terms of time and data, and expectations for coverage also increases.
A cellular network enabling smartphone users to connect over the best available wireless network and seamlessly roam between them. As broadband adoption reaches saturation and competition between operators heats up, ubiquitous mobile broadband coverage is an area where operators and vendors are working hard improve the user experience. The basic strategy is to leverage short range wireless technologies like Wi-Fi and so-called Femtocells (small in-home cellular stations), working in conjunction with fixed broadband networks, to improve indoor coverage and improve network capacity. Wi-Fi is a widely accepted mainstream wireless network technology today that is found almost everywhere and offers high-speed network access. The challenges with leveraging available Wi-Fi networks have been the mobile device connection manager software. Providing a seamless service offering while using two different radio networks requires more 'smarts' in the smartphone or mobile device connection manager than has historically been available, but this is changing quickly. Network operators are also pursuing Femtocells to improve network coverage and capacity, but while they are not currently deployed on a large scale, femtocells offer coverage improvements for both voice services and 3G data services. Handover between femtocells and wide area macrocells is handled by existing mobile network mechanisms, so no special mobile device connection manager needs to be developed. Making Wi-Fi and Femtocells a seamless part of the overall wireless access are helping improve mobile broadband coverage to users at the minimum cost. From a user point of view, lower cost delivery means lower data service subscription fees, greater "unlimited" data volume caps, or both. Conclusion
Wi-Fi or femtocell short range wireless networks, in conjunction with innovative multi-access session management gateways, and improved mobile device connection manager software will ensure that subscribers get what they want: any service, anywhere, all the time. With a new generation of fundamental ingredients, the true mobile broadband experience emerges: the broadband service is always available, the application and content experience is consistent, and users are always connected.
TAGS:wireless, 3G, carriers, 4g