Wireless Systems Design

Will Data Reign As The Next Big Thing?

There's no denying the fact that momentum is growing in the wireless industry. But what's driving that trend? In my opinion, it all boils down to one thing—data! As far as I'm concerned, data is the next big thing in both the wireless industry and society at large.

Think of it this way: The '90s were known as the decade of the Internet. During this time, the Internet spawned a legion of loyal followers. In the process, its user base grew from less than seven million in the early '90s to more than 600 million last year alone. At its core was the ability for anyone, anywhere to access any type of data that they wanted—day or night.

This functionality remains a big draw today. But a fundamental change is afoot. Consumers no longer have to go to the data. Thanks to wireless technology, data can now come to the consumer anytime and anywhere.

Today, the number of wireless-broadband access points neighbors somewhere in the vicinity of eight million. By 2013, some analysts predict that this number will grow to over 700 million. That staggering number has huge implications for the way wireless technology will play a central role in our workplace, social settings, and personal lives. It will bring with it a huge windfall of opportunity for cellular and fixed-line operators as well as DSL and cable-service providers. Even long-distance fiber providers stand to benefit from the growth in traffic that will be generated by wireless data.

What exactly will it take for the industry to bear witness to such growth? For starters, the appropriate standards must be in place. They also must be seamlessly operational from a consumer perspective. Such standards will include 802.16 (WiMAX), 802.11 (WLAN), 802.15 (Bluetooth), EDGE, and 3GPP—and that's just for starters.

Evidence of this data-driven movement already exists. Consider, for example, that the use of wireless-phone service continues to rise. At the same time, the use of traditional landline-phone service is declining. Service providers are now launching 3G data-intensive services. Consumer response seems positive. The use of data-intensive cell-phone features also is on the rise. In 2003, the global sales of cell phones with built-in digital cameras actually surpassed sales of conventional digital cameras.

While other industry insiders try to identify the next killer application, I plan on watching the wireless-data-driven decade reveal itself. If it mimics the sheer hysteria that came with the Internet in the '90s, it promises to be one heck of a fun ride! Send your thoughts to [email protected].

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