When someone starts trying to imply that mobile phones are faster than home broadband, either that person is ignorant, or youre being teased.
When Rene Oberman, CEO of T-Mobile here in Europe, starts explaining that theres a “whole new world” of Internet access because T-Mobile will move to an exciting new technology called HSDPA next year, I cant believe its ignorance.
Hes having us on.
The best you can hope for from HSDPA is 1.8M bps. Download. If youre within a few feet of the 3G phone mast. When nobody else is trying to download anything. As long as your battery holds out. Next year. Fourth quarter. As long as youre not indoors and it isnt raining hard.
And the upload speed is going to be 64K bps. Thats fax speed.
You dont get to be CEO of one of Europes “tier one” mobile networks without knowing this sort of stuff. So is there something Rene doesnt know? Something that makes him think that broadband is stuck at 200-odd kilobits per second?
I doubt it. Germanys broadband market is, mostly, ISDN-based; not terribly fast. But even so, all Europes cable operators are fibre to the street; were starting to see 10M-bps downloads. And ADSL (asymmetric DSL) Version 2 is going to be close to that, come year-end 2006.
Whistling in the dark? No, I think the truth is that Google is calling the shots. As I analyse the news in NewsWireless, the question which needs to be tackled isnt, “Does Oberman know how wireless works?” because he obviously does. But does he know how Google works?
The key point about T-Mobiles new Internet service, WalknWeb, isnt that its new. Its news, which isnt quite the same thing, but its only news because people dont read Opera press releases on the Opera Web site. Opera announced WalknWeb back in June. What Opera didnt say was that the home page of WalknWeb will be Google.
The fact of the matter is, T-Mobile is being used by Google as a weapon in its battle for supremacy in “presence”—a market which is now fiercely contested on the desktop, and which is just starting to move out of the corporate cube farm and into the pocket. Mobile presence is the name of next years game.
Read the AFAICS Research report on digital paper. It will widen your eyes: It shows that virtually all poster sites will be capable of responding to individual passers-by in a future that is much closer than you think.
It also suggests that portable technology in the very near future is going to be lighter, brighter, cheaper and more readable than even a good quality TFT (thin-film transistor) flat screen on the typical desktop.
And it will all be wireless live. No this isnt the dream that T-Mobile is going to live. For reasons which we can analyse another time, Wideband CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) isnt a suitable workhorse carrier—but its a good emergency backup carrier.
Future of Presence Advertising
Can you imagine a New York in which the target of a hostile takeover will get the impression that his rival company has bought all the poster sites? Including all the bus shelters, cab sides, bus sides and plane lounges?
Thats what mobile presence can do: detect the arrival of a target market, and switch to the advert which most closely matches that targets known purchase profile, auctioning the targets eyeballs to the highest bidder—for trivially low sums.
Times Square is a fiendishly expensive advertising billboard. Well, it is if you want a weeks exposure, and if you have to rely on a guy with a ladder and a bucket of paste to get the poster up.
But Bill Posters wont be prosecuted; hes going to be downsized. Electric paper will show your commercial for 10 seconds, if you like. And if the CEO of your rival firm happens to be walking past, that 10 seconds is exactly what you want to get your message across.
This is all some way in the future; but it is an El Dorado that nobody in todays instant messaging world can afford to leave to a rival.
Yahoo is going hugely mobile; watch this space toward the end of the year. Skype went to eBay, a company that knows what it is doing. And Google is pushing T-Mobile, and the idea is to get Google Talk into cell phones.
Actually, I think you can probably expect some people to really use Google Talk on their 3G phones—not because its a good idea, but because they can. It will work. I tried Skype across a WCDMA link, and it was a bit like falling through a wormhole in time to the days in the 70s when trans-Atlantic calls went over satellite; the voice delay was disconcerting, but it worked.
Well see how it goes. I suspect Google wants to make sure that its share of the handsets on the planet have Google Talk—and Google Presence, when it emerges—built right in at the factory.
Microsofts MSN Messenger is already built into every Windows Mobile phone shipped; if youre using Messenger on the desktop, you may disconcerted to discover that “you have been signed out on this because you signed in on a mobile device” because your pocket phone has switched on. And when Yahoo announces its deal with France Telecom later this year, you can expect them to be right in there.
The question of whether people actually use it, at this stage of the market, isnt important.
Googles deal with T-Mobile is based on the expectation that people will use about $20 worth of data on top of their 3G voice calls—about 50MB a month. You wont get a whole lot of talk time on VOIP rates for that. Actually, you wont get anything much; it sounds like a lot until you try using it for anything serious.
As usual, the main benefit for T-Mobile, today, is to reduce user churn. The network can finally roll out its cult cell phone, the Sidekick, into Europe, having found a way of getting enough bandwidth for that toy—which actually transmits all its “local” data straight back to the Danger servers.
The announcement will excite the innovator market, perhaps. It may make T-Zones look like a genuine rival to other services like Vodafone Live, and stop people switching networks.
But for Google, the long-term rewards could be huge. And does Rene Oberman realise this?
Honestly, I dont know. But people who work inside Deutsche Telekom tell me that they really think he doesnt.
Contributing columnist Guy Kewney has been irritating the complacent in high tech since 1974. Previously with PC Mag UK and ZDNet UK, Guy helped found InfoWorld, Personal Computer World, MicroScope, PC Dealer, AFAICS Research and NewsWireless. And he only commits one blog—forgiveable, surely? He can be reached at email@example.com.
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