Wireless Net will soar, speakers say

Wireless Net will soar, speakers say

FCC's William E. Kennard calls for a secondary market for buying and selling radio spectrum licenses.

Experts predict mobile Web will pass wired version as technology improves

By William Jackson

GCN Staff

ATLANTA'No one at the SuperComm trade show here last week was predicting the death of the wired Internet, but several companies were making bets that the wireless Internet will soon overshadow it.

'The mobile Internet is the main focus for Ericsson worldwide,' said Lars Nilsson, manager of strategic marketing for Ericsson Mobile Communications of Sweden.

'It's one of our core deliverables,' said Michael F. Hegeman, wireless program manager at Hewlett-Packard Co. Hegeman said wireless Net access is in its infancy, about where desktop Net access was five years ago.

Executives at HP, Ericsson, AT&T Corp. and others think wireless will take off by year's end and eventually dwarf the wired Internet.

John D. Zeglis, chairman and chief executive officer of AT&T Wireless Group, said the number of wireless devices using the Internet will outstrip wired connections within five years.

Although the technology, products and applications are beginning to come into alignment, William E. Kennard, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, warned of a wireless drought. 'We're running out of spectrum in this country unless some genius comes up with compression technologies,' he said in a panel discussion.

Spectrum refers to the finite bands of radio frequency used for wireless transmissions. FCC allocates portions of the radio spectrum to licensed users.

The commission has been auctioning off commercial rights to specific bands. It has not proved to be an effective way to manage the resource, however, and Kennard called for establishing a secondary market for buying and selling spectrum licenses.

'Unless we start thinking of spectrum as a commodity that can be moved in the marketplace, we are going to have bottlenecks,' he said.

Moving target

Zeglis said the toughest job is building a wireless Internet infrastructure that can support applications that have not yet been imagined. Wireless Net users will have fundamentally different needs from those of wired users, he said. Instead of surfing through Web sites, mobile users will want direct access to time- and location-specific information. It will have to be delivered through an intelligent infrastructure to suit a user's needs.

HP is developing what it calls an intelligent broker as part of its E-Services wireless Internet offering. The company will roll out two technologies: E-Speak, which lets a Web site respond to requests through an intelligent broker that understands users' profiles; and Chai, an embedded Java technology for wireless site access.

E-Speak and Chai are both available free to developers, along with application development kits. HP also is building Intel Bluetooth chips into its Internet appliances so they can communicate by wireless radio with each other and with other Internet devices. And it is selling Wireless Application Protocol servers to deliver applications to wireless phone users.

Ericsson has released its first Internet phone, the R520, which uses General Packet Radio Service for access. GPRS handles higher wireless rates via the Global System for Mobile (GSM) communications standard, prevalent in Europe and Asia.

GSM is one of three common standards for wireless packet switching. The time division multiple access and code division multiple access standards dominate in the United States.

Packet data services, which will use wireless bandwidth efficiently, will have rates up to 100 Kbps, Nilsson said. 'You will see that hitting the market later this year and early next year,' he said.

Fast, but not soon

Speeds of 100 Kbps to 150 Kbps will be adequate for users of Internet applications, but wireless carriers must have 384 Kbps to 2 Mbps to support the applications.

'You will see 384 Kbps in the next two years,' Nilsson said, 'but 2 Mbps is a little bit further out.'

When high bandwidth combines with an intelligent infrastructure to let a cell phone book a plane reservation, plot a route to the airport and adjust a personal schedule based on continuously updated traffic conditions'all with a single command'the demand for more access and more applications will skyrocket, Zeglis said.

The key to meeting the demand will be realizing that no one knows what applications are on the way. The new infrastructure must accommodate a new Internet, not just replicate the old one, he said.

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