I wish shows such as Enterprise Wireless Technology were more like Star Trek. At least then we wouldnt be tempted to look for rational motives in their stars.
Last year, EWT in London was a temple of Wi-Fi hot spots. This year, it was all cell phone operators. The telcos have taken over.
Well, weve found a trend, right? So, whats behind it?
Partly, if were to be serious about this, its the fact that the wireless space is starting to be real, not fantasy. Last year, IT management dealt with the irresistible growth of wireless very much the way I remember “DP managers” (data processing managers, as we called them then) dealt with the first personal computers. The technique is called denial.
Denial works in the short term. You say “it isnt there,” and when it goes away, you are proved right. And lets face it, lots of technologies are fads. Slates, ink, CB, voice recognition. Ignore it; it will go away, said the established people. It did. So, denial is rational.
But the “Star Trek” script writers never made the mistake of assuming people were rational. Planet shapers turned out to be motivated, not by rational commercial concerns, but by professional jealousy. Intergalactic warlords sacrificed empires for the sake of courtship. Well, would the wireless industry behave like that?
Yes, it seems. I asked the marketing director of one wireless infrastructure service provider (is that anonymous enough?), “Why are you looking to North American markets for your next expansion?”
I got the normal rational stuff about market sizes, strategic alliances, standards promulgation. All sounded about right.
What was interesting about the exhibition, at least at the business level, was the realization that the market is indeed changing. A year ago, wireless was solely an individual effort. The risks were hard to assess. The benefits were not quantifiable by analyzing historical data.
And the revenue streams? Heck, most people were sure there wouldnt be any, apart from the money made by electricians climbing ladders to install antennae.
This year, all of the big mobile operators are starkly aware that theyre in a race. They cant provide all of the antennae they need to cover the planet on their own, so they have to find a way of signing up the thousands of local and rural wireless networks that are proliferating.
Well, yeah, obviously. So why is [an internationally based network operator] doing so well in the United States with this strategy, yet lagging hopelessly behind in Europe? Surely, commercial wireless is far more advanced in Europe.
Again, theres a rational, business-sensible answer: “The revenue streams from mobile data in Europe are far more established, to the point where wireless data capacity is saturated.”
Logical enough. And then theres the jaundiced view of a consultant who has done a lot of work for this outfit: “Well, theyre fiercely nationalistic and dont like people from other European countries having control over their strategy. And most of the drive to provide alternative wireless has been promoted by the British staff in London, so theyre closing London down. They want to be in charge back in [large, well-known, non-British city in large, well-known, non-British country] …”
You know, if it werent for the fact that Star Trek props are so clearly based on 1970s technology, Id wonder if it wasnt documentary. Enterprise Wireless? Starship Enterprise Wireless, more like …