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July 15, 2015

Three Peaks and More Hype

I was reading some OEMs’ websites about 5G and LTE and it occurred to me that the Innovators’ Dilemma (a.k.a., “When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail”) may be happening after all.

While the traditional OEMs are promising MiMO (multiple in, multiple out) and pinpoint accuracy on “beamforming”, I feel like some other spectrum strategies may win the day.

Let’s talk about the peaks and see if they match the hype.

Consumer Demand 

It was somewhat disappointing to see Mary Meeker’s recent analysis about access to the Internet being available to only a third of the world. Back in the days when the ITU dominated, the joke was that a third of the world was on the phone, a third was waiting for dial tone and a third didn’t own a phone.

While I am ready to concede that not every person will want constant connectivity, a third having access to the Internet seems low.

It also screams of infrastructure and cost problems. While I’m constantly getting updates about Africa’s build up, I’m not sure the pattern is not the same as we see from Jeff Cohn’s Dead Cell Zones. Carriers solve for density issues first, and often show the weakness of their architectures.

It’s very telling that the wireless industry is already hyping 5G. Many would say it highlights the demand. We could also say that it indicates how inadequate current architectures are for supporting the demand.

The problem is that the working capital to deploy 5G is not there. As has been said many times, Wi-Fi has saved 4G from embarrassment. Usage-based pricing may be more about managing demand than actual cost.

Enterprise Support

The next peak being discussed is all about virtualization with SDN and NFV.  All very cool technology, but I am not sure it fits into the problems faced with supporting enterprise mobility.

Mind you, I am not impressed with many MDM strategies either. While I have several partitions in my life, my ability to keep them separate is minimal. 

So I am a believer that application management is best done as close to the app itself. I had a good talk about this with Jim Kanir of Vox Mobile and expect I will be writing more about their perspective soon.

However, the vision that says we are going to extend the Enterprise at the network layer requires a lot more than virtualization. It requires a common methodology that will not be developed as a result of carrier requirements.

The bottom line is, I once again can’t make the connection where the OEM solutions match to the demand being used to justify the investment.

Billions of Things 

As a way to manage sparse spectrum, Time Division Duplexing strategy has a lot of merit.  It more adequately manages data traffic and takes advantage of troughs in the bursts of data.  However, fifty billion devices are still noisy and as I have previously discussed, a calamity like an earthquake, storm or volcano all will make the sensors scream and the TDD will flood and crash just like any other strategy.

There is a need for an out of band control circuit (which defies the logic of moving to Internet technology in the first place).

The bottom line: we have a bunch of solutions that are supposed to solve our problems, but I think what we have is a bunch of vendors that have a hammer looking for a nail.

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