While the CTIA may like to bill its annual spring show as "The Most Important Technology Event of the Year", the relatively thin floor traffic at this week's CTIA Wireless 2005 show in New Orleans may cause them to rethink that title. The aisles were generally easy to navigate and the biggest draws were the free wireless access throughout the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center and the computerized waterfall in front of Samsung's booth.
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Fear and Loathing in the Big Easy
If I were to judge the state of the broadband cellular industry by what was on display at CTIA Wireless 2005, I'd say there's a good news / bad news story developing. The good is that deployment of 3G cellular networks based on technologies such as 1x EV-DO will continue - expanding the number of places where you'll be able to get data service with speeds in the hundreds of kbps.
The bad is that those wider pipes may be quickly clogged by all the video, music and gaming content that network owners and MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) will be pushing us to buy. This is likely to leave anyone with real work to do on those networks frustrated and wondering where all the hyped bandwidth went.
So why is the cellular industry gearing up to use their shiny new high-bandwidth networks to push multimedia junk food? A key reason is the same thing that is moving wired telcos to compete with the cable folks - rapidly declining voice revenue. What is happening now with wired VoIP will inevitably happen for cellular voice. The only questions are when and what the rate of change will be.