Another good side to 3GSM is the ability to test out a few theories and see how people react. For example: I have no idea what the future of high speed mobile data is. It could be telephony-based with 3G and its various add-ons like HSDPA and HSOPA; it could be WiMax and the various flavours of 802.16; it could be mixtures of the two or something entirely different. There are good reasons why none of them is quite right, and the arguments each side make against the other have some validity.
"Are people desperate for more bandwidth?" I ask. "Don't they want more a more reliable, cheaper version of what they've got already?" They might want, but they won't get -- while HSDPA can theoretically be rolled out to existing 3G network base stations without hardware changes, in practice it will need a considerable investment in extra bits and pieces. That's money which won't go into extending and improving the core service; money that'll have to come from the users.
"But the killer app is the mobile TiVO!" exclaimed one operator. "I'll be able to record my favourite TV at home and watch it anywhere on my handheld, whenever I like". He could be right: it is an attractive proposition and it doesn't take too much imagination to see this idea shifting loads of viewers and, more importantly, justifying all that investment in bandwidth.
Except, of course, the film and music industry are dead set against people having this level of control over their recordings. It is more important to the MPAA and RIAA that things go unwatched and unheard through aggressive DRM than two people watch and hear that which they deem only suitable for one. It could be this, rather than any technical or commercial issues, which finally decide how things pan out -- and the rather gloomy looks I got when this is mentioned does nothing to dispel that idea.