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Motorola misses wireless broadband high ground

Motorola's announcement of its commitment to pre-4G wireless broadband development missed the chance to emphasize why service providers need to identify vendors competent in fixed and wireless solutions.

In late 2008, Motorola announced that, based on its belief that multimedia and video will drive demand for both broadband networks and wireless networks, it is committed to continued development and deployment of pre-4G network capabilities and fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) technologies in 2009.

By citing old news and essentially saying 'stand by for further announcements,' Motorola actually weakens its position with respect to the market it is presumably trying to address.

Mike Jude
Chief Operating OfficerNova Amber LLC
Motorola cited significant advances in 2008, most notably its demonstration of to LTE handoffs, its increasing share of the FTTH/GPON market and its increasing presence in the global WiMAX market as proof that it will continue to be a significant player in the deployment of broadband in 2009.

The problem with this announcement is that it really says nothing new about Motorola, nor does it say anything insightful about the evolution of broadband. For some time now, Motorola has been floundering, trying to decide what its ongoing business model will be.

By citing old news and essentially saying "stand by for further announcements," Motorola actually weakens its position with respect to the market it is presumably trying to address. Based on the examples it cites, it seems as if Motorola is attempting to convince one of its major accounts, Verizon, not to use another vendor.

Multimedia is wireless broadband driver

This is unfortunate, since hidden in the announcement are a couple of points that are actually very important for service providers -- the importance of multimedia to wireless broadband evolution and the need to seamlessly integrate wireless with fixed broadband.

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The first point, the critical nature of multimedia, is not really news, but its importance mustn't be minimized. In order to justify and pre- 4G networks, there needs to be a legitimate reason for making an investment in the upgrades. Multimedia, including video, is the most logical justification for deploying wireless broadband. A major problem has been that no compelling business model has existed for delivering such services.

It is highly probable, however, that some service analogous to broadcast television will emerge that enables free content combined with advertising. In fact, several experiments to do exactly that have shown great promise.

Two lessons for wireless service providers here are:

  • Wireless broadband will never catch on as long as the service provider is charging by the bit, and large amounts of content are absolutely essential to justify high-bandwidth networks. Service providers that are actively contemplating pre-4G and WiMAX networks will in effect need to become broadcasters.
  • The second point, integrating wireless and fixed networks, is the key to service provider penetration of the enterprise space. Enterprises are beginning to think of wireless as an extension of internal enterprise networks. As such, they are beginning to expect to be able to deliver computing services to their employees seamlessly across the wired-wireless interface.

Service providers must think in terms of a continuum of broadband that extends from the enterprise network to external wired and wireless networks. They must craft service offerings that enable this. As a result, vendors that demonstrate capabilities in both domains are probably a better choice than single-mode vendors.

Motorola actually has a pretty good story to tell with respect to both of these points. Due largely to its close relationship with Verizon, Motorola has gained a great deal of experience working with large carriers and service providers in both the wired and wireless domains. Although Motorola noted this fact, it made it the point of the announcement rather than support for the points it should have made.

In seeking to reassure carriers and service providers that there will actually be a use for wireless broadband networks, Motorola missed an opportunity to take the lead in articulating why that need exists and how carriers and service providers should react to it.

About the author: Mike Jude is the chief operating officer of Nova Amber LLC, a consulting firm specializing in business process virtualization. Previously, he was a research analyst with Nemertes Research, with expertise in wireless technologies and mobility strategies. Jude has 30 years of experience in technology management in manufacturing, wide-area network design, intellectual-property management and public policy. He holds degrees in electrical engineering and engineering management, and a Ph.D. in decision analysis. He is a co-author of The Case for Virtual Business Processes: Reduce Costs, Improve Efficiencies and Focus on Your Core Business, Cisco Press, 2003.

This was last published in January 2009

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