Mobile Wireless Providers

Data services may give U.S. companies leg up on Europeans

Mobile wireless service providers have fared well through the market downturn, continuing to sign up record numbers of subscribers. With that success, operators in the U.S. are basking in the possibility that they could catch or even pass their European counterparts, which have long been considered further advanced when it comes to wireless telecommunications.

Thus, its been both a blessing and a curse that the Federal Communications Commission has failed so far to come up with additional spectrum for operators to use for third-generation networks. While the operators could do with more spectrum, they could also do without the costs of the licenses.

Those costs are exactly the reason European carriers are losing their edge. They bid billions of dollars on next-generation spectrum, and the investment is hindering their efforts to build out networks. Some question their ability to earn the revenue needed to pay for the spectrum.

While the European community struggles with the issue, U.S. operators are focused on introducing data services with the spectrum and the networks they already have in place. But most operators will ultimately need more spectrum if they are to continue migrating to next-generation services, and the FCC isnt required to make more spectrum available for several years.

In the meantime, Sprint PCS has been particularly aggressive with its Wireless Web offering, which allows users to access Internet-based information using a variety of wireless devices. Like any emerging market, the operators and application providers arent yet sure how they will earn revenue from data services, or how large the market for them can grow.