ATLANTA—Irrational exuberance in telecommunications is dead, and industry experts at this years Supercomm show displayed a healthy measure of skepticism about the pace of technology development and about the rollout of services delivered over new technologies.
"We cant do much on the network right now. Its really only been designed for Internet access," said Paul France, who heads the Internet & Data Design Centre at BTexact Technologies, a unit of British Telecommunications plc. Speaking at a panel discussion on broadband applications Thursday, France said that a number of valuable broadband applications will likely spur greater broadband penetration rates once the network is better equipped to deliver them.
"A whole layer of infrastructure is missing from todays broadband network," said France, who suggested that application service providers will develop more attractive content if access providers create a more open approach to the Internet. An open portal approach could mean a change in pricing from flat rate to application-based charging, he predicted.
After too many years of hype about telecommunications technologies that have yet to become fruitful, industry luminaries here urged tempered expectations about emerging services, particularly wireless data.
"Even back in the early 90s we were talking about wireless data being right around the corner, said William Clift, chief technology officer at Cingular Wireless LLC. "Its been right around the corner, right around the corner, right around the corner."
Addressing show attendees late Wednesday, Clift said that the mobile environment requires higher speeds than available to meet user expectations. The wireless industry should be careful not to over-promote emerging services, such as high-resolution color displays and low latency, particularly in the United States, where users have high expectations about data delivery.
"We need to avoid falling into the same trap as the Internet industry," Clift said. "The network capabilities are still young."
As is the case with wireline broadband applications, the uptake of wireless data applications depends largely on the ubiquity of access.
"Ubiquitous data access is a critical thing for all of us," said Kevin Kahn, a fellow with the Corporate Technology Group at Intel Corp. More spectrum, better technologies, such as 802.15.3a and 802.16, and better wireless authentication and billing systems will drive access availability, Kahn said.
Summing up the mood at this years Supercomm, Greg Douglass, vice president of technology services at Cap Gemini Ernst & Young U.S. LLC, noted a change from last years show, when the realities of the sluggish economy were sinking in.
"Last year it was shock and awe," Douglass said. "Now, were in the reconstruction phase. Its going to take some time. We have to rebuild, but well make it."