If Sprint sticks with its schedule, we'll get a taste of mobile WiMax by the end of 2007. Besides being mobile and nationwide, the network Sprint is promising will be fast and cheap -- at least compared with 3G mobile data service.
But that isn't the only new type of access we'll see in 2007. In the next year, we'll see the launch of a number of major citywide Wi-Fi networks. Philadelphia is, perhaps, building the most discussed of these networks, but about 300 municipalities are reportedly either building or planning to build these sometimes controversial networks.
The bottom line is that these two emerging types of networks will lead to increased mobility, more demand for mobile services and applications and, perhaps best of all, more competition for your mobile access dollar.
If you want mobile data access, you'll no longer be limited to using the services of a cellular operator or hunting for a Wi-Fi hot spot. Providers such as EarthLink and MetroFi will be installing and running the municipal networks, which will make them, at some level, competitors to the cellular operators and even to incumbent telecom operators that provide DSL. That type of increased competition can only be good for both enterprise users and consumers.
2. The era of 'the big bundle'
This increasingly available mobile access also will lead to the beginning of another trend that could be called the "big bundle." Sprint, which has been partnering with several large cable operators, has indicated that it plans to offer all-in-one bill bundles of mobile and landline voice and data services as well as media and other entertainment. The incumbent telecom operators are likely to follow. Companies such as EarthLink Inc., which will be installing metro Wi-Fi in a number of cities, could easily create partnerships to create similar bundles.
In the short term, this will mean more competition and lower prices as regional incumbent carriers such as AT&T Inc. will compete directly with other large providers such as Sprint and its cable partners, a competition that doesn't exist now.
"Right now, there are mostly monopolies for these services," Kerton said. "This will lead to duopolies, which are somewhat better."
However, this trend also will make it difficult for so-called competitive telecommunications companies to stay in business. These are the small telecom operators that are available in many areas but don't have the wherewithal to offer such bundles. So, in the long run, this trend threatens to decrease competition.
Again, we'll see the beginnings of this trend in 2007, but it won't become a major factor until a year or two after that.
3. The democratization of mobile e-mail