U.S. Mobile Deployments Lag Behind Asia, Europe

Broadband providers' interest in maximizing their investments in current infrastructure, and questions surrounding interoperability and content rights are hindering the United States' role in the mobile world.

American consumers face no shortage of mobile technologies, but theyre still a long way from the level of service enjoyed by consumers in many other countries.

"Youre more likely to get bb in Korea or parts of China than you are in the United States," said Dan Scheinman, senior vice president of corporate development at Cisco Systems Inc., who attributed much of the problem to federal regulations.

Scheinman was one of a half-dozen high-tech executives speaking about "Entertainment and Technology: From the Digital Home to the Mobile Universe" at the McGraw-Hill Cos. 2005 Media Summit on Thursday in New York.

Panelists cited issues plaguing mobile deployments in the United States, saying that they range from the regulatory landscape to broadband providers interest in preserving their infrastructure to interoperability and legal issues surrounding DRM (digital rights management).

One thing that is not a problem is the technology, they said. "If the rest of the world knows broadband better than we do, its because here we have created a climate of limitation rather than allowance," said Tim Krause, senior vice president of strategic solutions development at Alcatel North America.

As an example, he talked about children watching a movie download in the back of a mini van, and then being able to pause it, go into the house and begin watching the show on television at the point where they left off.

"That takes an environment that the regulatory climate currently disallows," Krause said. "From a technical point of view, we have that capability today."

Nevertheless, interoperability remains an issue, according to Scott Smyers, chairman of the Digital Living Network Alliance and vice president of the Network and Systems Architecture Division at Sony Electronics.

Scheinman countered, "I think we do have a standard in the home: Its called 802.11. Its simple; its easy to use." Cisco, with its purchase of Linksys, is working to provide a connectivity platform for the home, he added. "We have to be able to take those standards of connectivity into the home with the content folks."

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But Smyers noted that the 802.11 wireless standard is still evolving and that digital content rights are a key issue.

Bill Taylor, senior director of product and channel marketing at Motorolas consumer entertainment solutions division, agreed. He called content rights management "a pretty sticky wicket. Its really about digital rights management."

If other countries lead in broadband services, he said, it is "largely because they didnt have the investments in infrastructures we have in the United States."

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