One day a few weeks back, I found myself in a van circling the central New Jersey town of Bedminster. It was a trip to nowhere, and it was a trip to the future.
At the click of a mouse, Alan Kuritsky, vice president of marketing for Flarion Technologies, produced a live streaming image on the screen of a laptop computer mounted to the vans console.
Suddenly, we were videoconferencing with an engineer at Flarions Bedminster headquarters. The wireless broadband system was remarkably robust, never so much as flickering as the van made its way through traffic. And while the coverage area was limited due to the low-power transmitter at Flarions headquarters, the implications were clear. Here, finally, was a technology that could free millions of mobile workers from painfully slow data rates and thousands of IT departments from having to maintain multiple dial-up and network configurations on hundreds, even thousands of company laptops. Whats more, it was all-you-can-eat wireless broadband at T-1 speeds for a promised less than $50 per month.
The catch is that none of us will ever use this service unless a wireless carrier is willing to invest not just money but precious spectrum in the technology. And as reporter Nancy Gohring reveals in her article, thats something of a long shot.
Flarion is one of three companies developing new technologies that deliver high-speed wireless data while avoiding the drawbacks of the largely disappointing 3G standard. Each is designed to ride on top of existing wireless infrastructures. This avoids Metricoms dilemma: Its Ricochet required the construction of a separate national network, an effort that bankrupted Metricom.
But the folks who own the infrastructure have little incentive to use these new technologies. Wireless carriers have already committed to adding the 3G data standard to their networks "real soon now" or are unwilling to siphon spectrum from their lucrative voice services.
There is little relief in sight for mobile workers—or for the IT departments that serve them. Fortunately, as Jason Brooks reports, so-called 2.5G technologies offer a few bandwidth band-aids. But its likely to be years before we see seamless, ubiquitous high-speed wireless access to data, even though the technology is available today.
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