The World Is Changing Quickly for Mobility and Wireless

Summer used to be a time when companies slowed down and employees took vacations with their families and returned to work after two or three weeks refreshed and ready for the fall madness.

This past week has been really interesting. Just when you think things are settling down, things get stirred up again. First was the surprising announcement that Google is buying Motorola Mobility (see my column on Industry pundits and analysts quickly saw this as a patent play on Google’s part and I have to agree, but beyond that they are divided about the rest of the deal. Will Google keep Motorola’s set-top box division? Does Google really want to be in the wireless device business? What will existing supporters of the Android operating system think about this? Will LGSamsungHTC, and others bail on Android and look for other solutions including Windows Mobile? Will Google keep the handset group or simply strip it of its patents and sell it off?

Then came another bomb in the form of HP’s announcement that it is getting out of the consumer PC and wireless device businesses and will focus on its high-end systems and integration. Is WebOS doomed now or will HP make an effort to find it a home? Does HP really believe that cloud computing is the only direction for the future? This seems to be what HP is saying as it is touting cloud computing and cloud-reliant devices. This announcement certainly caught us all by surprise. Only a few months ago I was invited to HP in Houston to address its PC and device group. We had a long dialogue about the future of the PC, notebooks, tablets, and handsets. There was not a single indication that HP was moving in the direction it has now announced.

Then Sprint announced it will stop selling the RIM WiMAX PlayBook because of a lack of demand, yet Clearwire may have killed the product simply by announcing it would be looking for $600 million in order to roll out TD-LTE in place of WiMAX in the near future, a move many of us had predicted, but it took Clearwire and Sprint longer to decide on than it should have. Rumors are circulating that Sprint may end up buying the rest of Clearwire in order to grow its own business. This makes sense since the Clearwire spectrum is perhaps Sprint’s best chance of being able to enter the LTE business. Meanwhile, Verizon has announced more LTE cities and AT&T is rolling out its first LTE devices and preparing for launch of its own LTE network.

The issue of LightSquared’s new LTE system interfering with GPS devices continues to be of major concern, yet LightSquared is signing up more wholesale LTE customers and moving forward as though it will win approval to build out its LTE system in spectrum adjacent to the GPS spectrum and that was originally allocated as spectrum for satellite communications. I was one of two people on a LightSquared panel at the APCO (Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials) conference in Philadelphia last week. The other panelist was from LightSquared and my presentation beat them up pretty well. What I did not do, the audience, made up of public safety communications types, did. You can read about this panel at

My view is that LightSquared could obtain permission to build out this spectrum for all of the wrong reasons. It is aptly working the FCC and Congress touting competition, thousands of new jobs, and an infusion of money into the economy. Its latest technique is to try to discredit the GPS industry by saying that GPS receivers were not built to shield themselves from adjacent spectrum interference, therefore (my words): LightSquared should be permitted to build out its system no matter what affect it will have on all of us, including public safety and those calling 911, because somehow the GPS industry failed to build devices that took into account a network that wasn’t even contemplated by the industry.

The bottom line here is that while I like the concept of a wholesale LTE network that will enable smaller operators to resell LTE and, therefore, compete with AT&T and Verizon in the LTE business, I do not think LightSquared should be permitted to make use of spectrum that could interfere with GPS receivers. One of the questions I have yet to receive an answer to is since GPS receivers are used at almost every cell site to assist in user device hand-offs from one cell site to another, if LightSquared ends up sharing these cell sites, what will the impact be on other network operators?

But with the FAA, DOD, and most three-letter government agencies opposed to this network even using the lower portion of the LightSquared spectrum, I don’t believe Congress will permit the FCC to issue LightSquared the license it needs to proceed to build out its network. If the FCC does, then I believe all of us will find that the LightSquared network does, in fact, interfere with GPS and the fix to the problem will be both expensive and time consuming.

Summer used to be a time when companies slowed down and employees took vacations with their families and returned to work after two or three weeks refreshed and ready for the fall madness. However, summer has become like any other time of the year, and those who do manage to get away for vacation have to pay attention to the news and their emails even while trying to relax and enjoy a few weeks of well-earned rest. If they don’t pay attention, they will return to work and find out that the world, once again, has changed in their absence. One thing that is safe to prognosticate is the fact that no matter what we think will happen and when, what usually happens is something we did not expect, at a time when we did not expect it. Technology is great, BUT it has changed not only the way we do business but when we do business. Today that is 24/7, 365 days a year.

Andrew M. Seybold


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