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Finally, as part of our larger project of renaming the company and updating and designing new content and services, both the Website update and the new blog have come to be a reality.

CTIA Wireless Ramblings

Monday, April 02, 2007

Welcome to my first blog entry. This blog is way overdue, as is our Website update. It seemed like there were always writing assignments, consulting engagements and our educational courses to attend to first and we would plan to work on the Website and blog right after we met the next deadline. But then there was always another deadline.


Finally, as part of our larger project of renaming the company and updating and designing new content and services, both the Website update and the new blog have come to be a reality.


So here I am, on a plane traveling from Orlando back to Santa Barbara after almost a week at the CTIA Wireless 2007 conference and exhibition. It was a good week, during which we presented our Wireless Data University, now named Andrew Seybold University, School of Wireless Mobility, on Monday, and on Tuesday I moderated a lively panel for the CTIA on Tuesday. I was lucky to have been asked to moderate the CTO panel and I had seven great panelists including:


  • Hakan Eriksson, CTO of Ericsson
  • Dr. Sanjay Jha, COO of Qualcomm and President of its chip organization
  • Jake MacLeod, VP and CTO of Bechtel Communications
  • Paul Mankiewich, CTO of North America for Alcatel-Lucent
  • Dr. Tero Ojanpera, CTO of Nokia
  • Gabriella Poczo, CTO of OEM platforms at Sun and finally
  • John Roese, CTO of Nortel.

Our topics included how they decide which technologies to implement when, how to follow the various technology curves and how to wrestle with the capex and R&D costs associated with technology advancements.


There was a consensus on what they consider when making technology determinations, although the order of importance varied slightly between the participants. The considerations are customer input, input from the customer’s customer (end user), input from their own R&D and engineering teams, tracking what others are doing and, my favorite, giving a bright engineer with an idea the money and equipment to develop the idea even if it does not seem to fit into the company’s current focus.


Other aspects of their responsibilities that we discussed were how they juggle funding R&D and keeping Wall Street happy each quarter, and how they deal with the hype that usually surrounds the introduction of a new technology or concept. The best answer to this dilemma was provided by Jake MacLeod, CTO of Bechtel. He talked about Bechtel’s labs and how they try to determine what each technology is really capable of regardless of the hype that preceded it to commercialization.


Of course, WiMAX came up a few times. The consensus is that in order for WiMAX to become a relevant technology, it will have to scale quickly. By “scale,” the panel meant that there have to be enough networks and customers on those networks to make it a profitable technology. Haran Eriksson, CTO of Ericsson, believes that by 2010 WiMAX will only be serving 28 million customers while GSM/UMTS will be providing services to 600 million customers—a big difference. Sanjay Jha, COO of Qualcomm, agreed. Though he did not discuss numbers, he did say that the demand would have to be substantial before Qualcomm would be interested in WiMAX as a technology to be added to its chipsets.


On the other side of the fence were the CTOs from Nokia and Nortel who believe that WiMAX will, in fact, scale, based not on a voice-and-data paradigm as with today’s wireless, but rather it will be a huge success because it will be the network of choice to extend the reaches of the Internet from location-centric access to anytime, anywhere access. They both seem to share Intel’s vision of the wireless Internet with millions of devices (all with Intel chipsets) being used to access the Internet from a car, boat or plane, and everywhere in between.


I disagree with the idea that the wireless Internet is just waiting to happen and then explode. One must keep in mind that the Internet is not a destination; it is another transport to get to information that people want and need. I don’t believe that most “wireless Internet” customers will find the desktop model of Googling and then selecting sites to look at as being the highest and best form of wireless Internet use. I come down on the side of gaining easy access to information. Some companies, including Internet companies, are beginning to understand what is needed (read on).


The panel was fun and I think the standing-room-only audience left with a good understanding that making technology decisions is a lot more complex than simply implementing what the engineers invent next.


The rest of the week was spent in meetings, learning what is new, what is just around the corner and how the industry is changing and morphing from one that provides a communications pipe that happens to be wireless to one that delivers an entire ecosystem that happens to use wireless. Soon these will be integrated with other networks including the Internet, wired, cable and satellite services. Content is what is happening to wireless, although the technologies are still important.


There were lots of great companies showing great applications for wireless. Location-based services are getting a lot of play with navigation and all manner of services to help us locate things and places we need to find. The industry is quickly moving beyond ringtones, wallpaper and the like. We have rounded the bend and this year wireless banking, among other applications, was hot, and the good news for me is that some Internet companies, including Yahoo, or should I say especially Yahoo, really seem to understand what we want. Its Yahoo! To Go search is really smart. One example that perhaps will give you an idea about how far the thinking has come is to search on the word “Paris.” Paris is both a location and a celebrity (Paris Hilton). The first thing Yahoo has done is to recognize this, so when I search for Paris without being in a specific category, it assumes Paris the city. But if I do a search for Paris inside entertainment or movies, the results are for Paris Hilton. This is a smart search engine, but it is even smarter than that. The search results are not simply a batch of links to other Websites. They start with the information you most likely want. Paris the city equates to travel information; sightseeing and such while Paris the star relates to information about her life and appearances. Below the first set of search results, you can find the types of links we are all accustomed to seeing when using other Web browsers, but most of the time you don’t need to scroll down because Yahoo has been both smart and clever about how it delivers information to us. I am very impressed.


A few other companies with impressive products and ideas you might want to take a look at include FoneMine, (, Networks In Motion (VZ navigator and others) and for you browser fans, Novarra, Inc. There are a lot more that I will be discussing in upcoming entries.


Speaking about posting, I am not, at this point, committing to a schedule, but will most likely post several times a week, probably at the beginning and end of the week, and I will share my thoughts with you as I travel and hope you will continue to check in here. Don’t forget my weekly Commentary and we will soon launch our new InfiniG e-newsletter, which deals with all things 3G and beyond from both a technology and applications perspective. You can sign up for your free subscriptions to one or both right on this site.


Check out our Webinars while you’re at it. The first three are scheduled for April, May and June. You can find out more about these by clicking on the Events tab.


Until next time, remember that sometimes it is tough to distinguish perception from reality.

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