Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Sprint Clearwire Wi-MAX deployment plan

The recent announcements by Sprint and Clearwire to go on a Wi-MAX deployment spree, by 2008, has several interesting aspects to look after. These two firms are going on an spectrum sharing agreement based on the spectrum they have received on the latest US bid.

Sprint is having the bigger share of the agreement, roughly 65%. They plan for an deployment for about 180 million subscribers. Clearwire takes about 35% share of the deployment. It is going to have a deployment of about 150 million subscribers. By 2008 both together aims a subscriber base of 100 million. While Sprint is mostly going for deployment in the big metros Clearwire is going to exploit its broadband experience in the urban areas.

From business point of view this looks to be a very promising deal as both compensate each other in various forms. The agreement is expected to reduce the cost of deployment for Sprint by about $3 billion. Clearwire too gets benefited by the existing 3G infrastructure from Sprint.

Their convergence also makes the path of any other provider to take the Wi-MAX path much harder. As much of the broadband spectrum suitable for Wi-MAx is now hold by these two operators. On the negative side, these may lead to a monopolistic market on the Wi-MAX domain. Although the Wi-MAX, as a technology, will continue to compete with its broadband and 3-G counter parts in fixed and mobile domain.

Sprint's plan for the widespread Wi-MAX deployment is also pregnant with idea of convergence of Wi-MAX with its existing 3-G cellular network. I am sure we don't have to wait for long to see Sprint is bringing dual mode handsets to provide converged services between these two networks. They also plan to flood voice-data convergence and related applications to their network. Currently there are two popularly known ways of doing the convergence between fixed(Wi-MAX) and mobile(Cellular) networks. Using IMS(IP Multimedia Subsystem) or UMA(Unlicensed Mobile Access). At that point, Sprint's selection of one of these approaches for the convergence of Wi-MAX and 3-G, may also affect the fate of the humble, highly controversial, IMS standards.

Another reason I am particularly interested in this collaboration is because of my previous company Motorola is also hidden behind the curtains of this agreement. Motorola, who is doing quite bad since last few quarters, is the trusted vendor of both the two participating firms. Motorola had been doing considerable research and development in the Wi-MAX domain in last few years. The Sprint Clearwire deal might be a big boom for their solutions and probably a chance of survival of at least their network devision.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

DuaLLine Mobile Phones

While the term Dual Mode Handset (DMH) is becoming popular nowadays with large number of WiFI (And rather optimistically, WiMAX) deployments worldwide, I came across the term Dual Lime Mobile phones. What impressed me about the concept of Dual Line Mobile phones is the very fact that there is nothing new, nothing unknown, but it yet makes so much business sense.

Unlike DMHs, conceptually, Dual Mode Mobile phone is not a break through idea, nor a break through technology. Its just about having two different phone numbers in a single mobile handset. In GSM domain, its having two different SIM cards in one GSM handset.But yet, in certain cases, its so useful.

In present day, almost every business man carries two different numbers. One is a private number for family members and other is a public number for business purposes. Along, they need to carry two different mobile phones. How easy it would become if both the numbers can be fitted into one single phone!

In the enterprise domain, a company can give the employees a single phone and one number which is to be used, say, only for official purposes. If that is a Dual Line Mobile phone, the employee can put his personal number into it and use the single phone for both personal and official purposes.

While these are few examples, this actually opens a door for a whole new kind of mobile applications. For example, an application which will automatically switch off one number in a particular time of the day based on some user configuration. Although a Dual Line Handset does not necessarily mean a Dual Mode Handset, it can be. Leading to more interesting applications where you are not only sharing two different numbers but two heterogeneous networks.

This will also open door for new kind of services in the switches. For example, if a line is blocked, and the switch knows that this is the number of a Dual Line Mobile phone whose other line is unblocked, it can deliver SMSs to the unblocked line. So, even if you have blocked your office line at night, you will continue getting SMSs from office on your home line.

All said, it actually throws some technical and business challenges as well. For a GSM phone, fitting two SIM cards may increase the size of the phone. It may consume more battery power. It may be much costlier. None of them are really desirable. One may not ignore the security related issues as well. Compromise of one number may result in compromising the other number as well.

Recently, arrival of a set of dual line dual mode mobile phones was announced by Spice Mobile, for the Indian market. D-80 and D-88. They also promised very low cost of the phones, to capture the market of the masses.

It will be interesting to wait and see if in near future the number of people carrying two mobile phones reduces to zero.