Welcome!

Mobile IoT Authors: Elizabeth White, Jason Bloomberg, James Carlini, Mauro Carniel, Rostyslav Demush

Related Topics: Mobile IoT, SYS-CON Webcast

Mobile IoT: Article

The End of Telecom As We Know It?

The End of Telecom As We Know It?

Most rainbows are colorful shining heralds that a storm has passed. "Project Rainbow" leaves us in a fog as to what is to come. So do frequently named participants such as IBM, Intel, AT&T, and Verizon by their silence. At its vaguest, Project Rainbow is a consortium that loosely ties at least the aforementioned companies together. According to a consensus of surrounding industry hearsayers, the purpose is a serious verbal rumination about the plausibility of a nationwide 802.11 network that all participants could profit from. The fact that Project Rainbow exists with such certainty while remaining so unidentifiable is part of its attraction for investigation, reporting, and discussion.

Project Rainbow seems to be a loosely knit rallying point for certain known and unknown tech-sector giants to discuss how to take advantage of the popularity of 802.11 (WLAN) hotspots. Administering 802.11 as a nationwide service, and reaping profits is the goal. Building out additional hotspots, enlisting the cooperation of service providers, and agreeing on profitable billing models are certain to be under consideration by those at the Project Rainbow discussion table.

According to Adam Needles, principal at Alescor Group, "Project Rainbow is a loose industry attempt to address a need that's really not being filled right now." The need is for wireless broadband that truly is broadband. U.S. 3G services have failed to deliver speeds above 56K.

Why 802.11?
WLAN (802.11) offers broadband speeds (up to 11Mbps now, 54Mbps with the coming 802.11g standard), and is highly device compatible. Hardware (like the IBM Thinkpads for example) frequently comes with 802.11 cards. If you solve the roaming and billing issues (assuming a model that includes carrier participation) and put up hotspots where business customers linger, you're open for business.

IBM, Intel and the Carriers
IBM and Intel product sales would soar upon successful implementation of national WLAN service. Chips, devices, and network cards are but a few of the hardware categories that would see a sales boost paralleling service expansion. "The companies already involved see healthy sales for wireless LAN gear; enabling a broader application and infrastructure where you can use this will encourage further growth," says Bill Carney, director of business development, Wireless Networking Business Unit, Texas Instruments.

Some forecasters portend that carriers are in a position to profit from WLAN. "Carriers such as AT&T and Verizon are looking for a less costly way to service customers," says Needles. The premise here is that the free open spectrum would provide the carriers with sufficient savings.

The Dilemma
It's difficult to imagine IBM and Intel needing the carriers. It is even more difficult to see the carriers favoring a competing data communications industry that's also based on the Internet model, and that would allow clear digital voice calls. Though some surmise that IBM is searching for a way to bring the carriers on board, it really doesn't need them. IBM, Intel, et al, can sell hotspot hardware to businesses, use the free spectrum, and connect to their own backhaul.

What's to stop IBM and Intel from circumventing the carriers completely? Is a cooperative gesture easier than removing the mask and moving ahead in direct competition with the telcos? Is this a way to let the fight die quietly? According to Carl Ford, VP of community development, Pulver.com, "Intel and IBM together have a better understanding of all the carriers' troubles than any other systems integrators around today." Will this understanding be used to bring the carriers on board or to leave them behind?

Needles rightly asks these hard questions: "How do we make a viable business model out of this service? Who's paying for it? What is the critical mass and cost of infrastructure to make it happen?"

The obvious reply is that the hardware manufacturers already have a viable business model and the carriers have little hope of finding one. All IBM and Intel have to do is sell the equipment and provide the connection, retaining the option to allow the service to remain free as long as the frequency is free, or to institute an attractive, minimal charge. They would profit from hardware sales so they wouldn't have to lean hard on the service for revenue. At the same time, they'd be gaining control of the market and shutting the carriers out.

Making the Point
Needles continues, "One of the major concerns about these networks was that they just could not get enough subscribers, even in a small area, to make it profitable. I think they need to ask: Who pays for it? Who maintains it? Who are the customers? Is it an individual user? Is it an organizational user? How do you make that worthwhile? Because right now the way I see it, the only people who are going to win are the equipment manufacturers. That's exactly why they are pushing it. It's being pushed more by IBM than Verizon."

This is exactly the point. The population of mobile enterprise users will continue to grow and by the time that market is large enough to support a nationwide network, IBM and Intel will have jockeyed to adopt it. Businesses will pay for it by buying the WLAN hardware. Individual subscribers will pay for it by purchasing the devices and LAN cards, perhaps for a nominal fee.

As Alex Lightman, CEO of Charmed Technologies, logically predicts, "I've been saying for years that the computer industry and the communications industry will converge, but where everybody thinks it's sort of nice and everything will be split 50/50, the computer industry will emerge dominant.

"Ultimately there won't be a charge for per-minute communications. It will either be something that's incorporated in the hardware and the service contract or something that's done in a monthly fee. So Project Rainbow to me is the beginning of the end of telecom as we know it," he says.

It will be interesting to see if and when the telecom industry's household names will begin to show signs of taking an "if you can't beat them, join them" stance, and buy in as much as possible to survive. The telcos would need to have some control over the resulting convergent technologies to stay in the game.

The Internet Is Pulling the Telcos Away from Their Familiar Framework
IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6, which allows for a virtually limitless source of public IP addresses) will become necessary to support the vast number of devices used for data or voice or both. This will provide the option to bill the IP address owner, which will make for a much easier, much more concrete billing model. Ford comments on IPv6 as a billing solution: "As the Internet takes over our network model, it makes a lot of sense for [our network model] to work the same way that the Internet works. It's possible to own a private address and have plain connectivity from people [for which they are billed, rather than being billed per use], and if you [additionally] buy a roaming agreement [then] you buy a roaming agreement."

John Harrison, cofounder of Ecutel, stated that in about two years, more than 80% of the U.S. workforce will be mobilized. According to Dr. John Rasmus, VP of business and corporate development, GRIC Communications, "You've got an inexorable shift toward remote-centric enterprises."

Businesses want employees in the field, face to face with customers. Teams are getting together remotely and need all the utilities of a stationary office in the mobile environment. Companies see it coming. IBM knows, Intel knows, so like hungry dogs waiting for the meat to fall off the table, perhaps they're waiting for a certain plateau along the way to that 80% workforce mobility before jumping in aggressively. While they're waiting, they have ample time to strategize.

Stodginess Loses the Day
Carriers have several issues to overcome. According to Needles, "One of the things carriers have got to get better at is the access device; they've got to be more agnostic about what that access method is." Single devices that connect to several access protocols are being and will continue to be developed; Red M out of London is a prime example.

U.S. carriers are no more likely to work with each other than they are to work with varying protocols. Ford, of Pulver.com, adds, "The wireless carriers don't show any signs that they like the idea of cooperating. I mean the U.S. is nothing like Europe, where GSM made it so that you have multiple choices and everybody roams together. My own personal experience is that there's a lot of distrust among carriers. It's hard for them to see how IBM and Intel are going to get the incentives right to get carriers to work together."

But why would IBM and Intel even want to try?

Nationwide 802.11 in Some Form
According to Carney, of Texas Instruments, "The chances for [nationwide 802.11] success are really high. It's very much a patchwork network right now."

We currently see Wi-Fi popping up at Starbucks, hotel chains, and in airports, and more business consumer hotspots will become Wi-Fi hotspots. We have seen or will see hotspots on airplanes and trains, and in malls and metropolitan gathering points where people break for lunch.

On the Highways
If the telematics industry sees value in having highways enabled with Wi-Fi for automobile information and navigation utilities, this could become a reality. Cars could also be fitted with signal boosters. "OnStar technology is already doing stuff like that so the question would be roaming between wide area wireless where there are no local hotspots along the road, versus connecting to a wireless LAN infrastructure if you're in a metropolitan environment," says Carney.

Global Marketplace Analyses
Rasmus says, "The tendency in North America among service providers is to look at this [market] within North American confines. They really should be looking at it globally." To their credit and their benefit, European carriers take a global perspective. The business market served is a market that is internationally mobile; they want the same experience everywhere in the world.

Final Thoughts
There are concerns about the high insecurity of the WLAN protocol. However, the service is so popular and has such great potential to fill the wireless broadband gap (and the pockets of hardware manufacturers), that security issues are likely to be addressed along the way, unfortunately as a secondary concern.

There seem to be subtle comparisons between the fall of the Roman empire and the coming and going of entities of mass power. Do the major telcos presume too much security in their lofty position? Are their bureaucracies too slow for mobility, too resistant to change? Is it already too late for them?

More Stories By David Geer

David Geer is a contributing writer to WBT, a journalist, and a computer technician. He graduated from Lake Erie College in 1993 with a BA in psychology and has worked in the computer industry and in the media since 1998.

Comments (2) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
Dan 10/25/02 07:08:00 PM EDT

Community microcell trials by a major wireless carrier several years ago showed people want something that works everywhere or they won't pay for it. Even today macrocellular coverage could be better, much less roll out a new tier based on 300 ft radiuses. The enterprise will drive 802.11, and since laptops will have the antenna built in, some local ISPs will try to make money offering service at particularly "hot" spots. But major carriers, with an appreciation for operations costs, don't like microcells and will never widely deploy 802.11 service.

John Celentano 10/24/02 10:18:00 PM EDT

Telecom is never as black and white nor as homogenous as most people try to portray it. True 3G with high data rates on wireless networks won't be available until 2004-2005 and beyond. So it's still ahead of us. But once deployed, 3G will be ubiquitous, with millions of subscribers on voice and data calling plans. And by then, there will be fewer carriers. At the same time, WLAN hotspots today are like payphones - you need to go where they are to use them. Plus, you have to wonder how the WLAN operators will get paid

@ThingsExpo Stories
BnkToTheFuture.com is the largest online investment platform for investing in FinTech, Bitcoin and Blockchain companies. We believe the future of finance looks very different from the past and we aim to invest and provide trading opportunities for qualifying investors that want to build a portfolio in the sector in compliance with international financial regulations.
Leading companies, from the Global Fortune 500 to the smallest companies, are adopting hybrid cloud as the path to business advantage. Hybrid cloud depends on cloud services and on-premises infrastructure working in unison. Successful implementations require new levels of data mobility, enabled by an automated and seamless flow across on-premises and cloud resources. In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Tevis, an IBM Storage Software Technical Strategist and Customer Solution Architec...
Nordstrom is transforming the way that they do business and the cloud is the key to enabling speed and hyper personalized customer experiences. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ken Schow, VP of Engineering at Nordstrom, discussed some of the key learnings and common pitfalls of large enterprises moving to the cloud. This includes strategies around choosing a cloud provider(s), architecture, and lessons learned. In addition, he covered some of the best practices for structured team migration an...
Product connectivity goes hand and hand these days with increased use of personal data. New IoT devices are becoming more personalized than ever before. In his session at 22nd Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo, Nicolas Fierro, CEO of MIMIR Blockchain Solutions, will discuss how in order to protect your data and privacy, IoT applications need to embrace Blockchain technology for a new level of product security never before seen - or needed.
Imagine if you will, a retail floor so densely packed with sensors that they can pick up the movements of insects scurrying across a store aisle. Or a component of a piece of factory equipment so well-instrumented that its digital twin provides resolution down to the micrometer.
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settle...
No hype cycles or predictions of a gazillion things here. IoT is here. You get it. You know your business and have great ideas for a business transformation strategy. What comes next? Time to make it happen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jay Mason, an Associate Partner of Analytics, IoT & Cybersecurity at M&S Consulting, presented a step-by-step plan to develop your technology implementation strategy. He also discussed the evaluation of communication standards and IoT messaging protocols, data...
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Raju Shreewastava, founder of Big Data Trunk, provided a fun and simple way to introduce Machine Leaning to anyone and everyone. He solved a machine learning problem and demonstrated an easy way to be able to do machine learning without even coding. Raju Shreewastava is the founder of Big Data Trunk (www.BigDataTrunk.com), a Big Data Training and consulting firm with offices in the United States. He previously led the data warehouse/business intelligence and B...
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
When shopping for a new data processing platform for IoT solutions, many development teams want to be able to test-drive options before making a choice. Yet when evaluating an IoT solution, it’s simply not feasible to do so at scale with physical devices. Building a sensor simulator is the next best choice; however, generating a realistic simulation at very high TPS with ease of configurability is a formidable challenge. When dealing with multiple application or transport protocols, you would be...
Smart cities have the potential to change our lives at so many levels for citizens: less pollution, reduced parking obstacles, better health, education and more energy savings. Real-time data streaming and the Internet of Things (IoT) possess the power to turn this vision into a reality. However, most organizations today are building their data infrastructure to focus solely on addressing immediate business needs vs. a platform capable of quickly adapting emerging technologies to address future ...
We are given a desktop platform with Java 8 or Java 9 installed and seek to find a way to deploy high-performance Java applications that use Java 3D and/or Jogl without having to run an installer. We are subject to the constraint that the applications be signed and deployed so that they can be run in a trusted environment (i.e., outside of the sandbox). Further, we seek to do this in a way that does not depend on bundling a JRE with our applications, as this makes downloads and installations rat...
Widespread fragmentation is stalling the growth of the IIoT and making it difficult for partners to work together. The number of software platforms, apps, hardware and connectivity standards is creating paralysis among businesses that are afraid of being locked into a solution. EdgeX Foundry is unifying the community around a common IoT edge framework and an ecosystem of interoperable components.
DX World EXPO, LLC, a Lighthouse Point, Florida-based startup trade show producer and the creator of "DXWorldEXPO® - Digital Transformation Conference & Expo" has announced its executive management team. The team is headed by Levent Selamoglu, who has been named CEO. "Now is the time for a truly global DX event, to bring together the leading minds from the technology world in a conversation about Digital Transformation," he said in making the announcement.
In this strange new world where more and more power is drawn from business technology, companies are effectively straddling two paths on the road to innovation and transformation into digital enterprises. The first path is the heritage trail – with “legacy” technology forming the background. Here, extant technologies are transformed by core IT teams to provide more API-driven approaches. Legacy systems can restrict companies that are transitioning into digital enterprises. To truly become a lead...
Digital Transformation (DX) is not a "one-size-fits all" strategy. Each organization needs to develop its own unique, long-term DX plan. It must do so by realizing that we now live in a data-driven age, and that technologies such as Cloud Computing, Big Data, the IoT, Cognitive Computing, and Blockchain are only tools. In her general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Rebecca Wanta explained how the strategy must focus on DX and include a commitment from top management to create great IT jobs, monitor ...
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
The IoT Will Grow: In what might be the most obvious prediction of the decade, the IoT will continue to expand next year, with more and more devices coming online every single day. What isn’t so obvious about this prediction: where that growth will occur. The retail, healthcare, and industrial/supply chain industries will likely see the greatest growth. Forrester Research has predicted the IoT will become “the backbone” of customer value as it continues to grow. It is no surprise that retail is ...