Open spectrum is why the iPhone will fail

Open spectrum is why the iPhone will fail

Summary: Free the bits and we'll have progress. We'll have the iPhone, we'll have 10, 20, 50 megabit per second downloads, we'll have all the innovation you could ever want. Keep them imprisoned and we'll remain stuck in the past, while other nations go rocketing ahead of us on the wings of open source, and open spectrum.

TOPICS: iPhone, Mobility

Apple iPhoneUntil Larry Dignan pointed it out, I had not realized just how busy we ZDNet bloggers had gotten in talking about the Apple iPhone.

It's hardware, it's proprietary, so I really planned on keeping my mouth shut about it. But there is one point I have decided to make, one related directly to this beat, which is the real reason I believe the iPhone will, at best, disappoint in the market.

Open spectrum. We don't have much, and we are nowhere near getting more.

That's why the iPhone will fail. It is tied to a proprietary network, that of AT&T, which doles out bandwidth with an eyedropper, and charges users out the wazoo for the privilege.

AT&T can do this because our political leaders, in this decade, have endorsed a telecom oligopoly in which it pays companies to restrict supplies, prevent choice, and treat consumers with utter contempt.

AT&T is not alone in this. All of the major cellular carriers are the same way. This despite repeated spectrum auctions in which scads of bandwidth have supposedly been made available.

There's no secret to what happened. Those auctions were gamed, by these same companies, so they could retain their positions in the market and so that competitors could be kept out. I don't blame them for that, it's what Bells do. I blame the government, but more than that I blame the voters and industry which let them do it.

As seen on TV, the iPhone downloads songs, videos, and scads of data with ease, and sports a great touchscreen user interface. But if you can't afford in a month to do what the commercial does in 30 seconds, are you going to even try?

Free the bits and we'll have progress. We'll have the iPhone, we'll have 10, 20, 50 megabit per second downloads, we'll have all the innovation you could ever want. Keep them imprisoned and we'll remain stuck in the past, while other nations go rocketing ahead of us on the wings of open source, and open spectrum.

If it takes the failure of the iPhone to get this through voters' heads, then it's a sacrifice well worth making.

End of rant.

Topics: iPhone, Mobility

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  • Ever Heard of WiMAX

    Although the iPhone may seem pretty snazzy at the moment, I assure you that it's littany of functionality will be trumped completely by standards-based devices that operate on WiMAX networks.

    Look, the spectrum/wireless ogilolopoly snaffu has been around for a long time (1983?). This is about to be changed signifigantly by competition by fourth-generation services that will be offered by many many different entities that own/lease BRS and EBS spectrum, in which WiMAX services will operate. It is here where you will find 10Mbps plus access.

    So while the current proprietary-nature of 3G cellular networks seems like a limitation to the user of such services at the moment, it will become a limitation of the provider to meet market demand in the near future.

    No, WiMAX is not a pipe dream. I've got more than enough experience with enough players in this arena to guarantee you that. Just wait and see - November or December 07 should be a good time to take a look around at what's coming.

    Jeremy Ward
    • so what's preventing iPhone v2 with WiMax??? nt

    • Problems with WiMax

      The spectrum is too high up. Which means waves don't go far before they dissipate.

      We need more open spectrum, lower down.
      • WiMax Spectrum

        Isn't the WiMax spectrum mostly owned by the phone companies?
        • Sprint owns some

          The other companies are taking a "wait and see" approach. They have a lot invested in EvDO and other technologies and the devices are already available and they inter-operate with legacy networks.
        • Not just the telcos

          Quite a bit of "WiMAX spectrum" (EBS) is owned by educational institutions, some of which have partnerships with some large providers (Clearwire, Sprint, etc). Sprint may own 85% of the popualted areas of the country, but they very rarely own ALL of the spectrum in a market or BTA.

          The point I was trying to make is that what is relevant is not who owns the spectrum but rather that WiMAX is a standards-based ethernt wireless interface that will allow any company to develop a product around it - Apple included. In January, you're going to find it in laptops, largely thanks to Intel.

          Keep your ears peeled...
      • If you omly witnessed a field trial...

        OFDMA. Look it up. Absorb.

        For the rest of you, OFDM/OFDMA is parity-checking (think Disk Striping) over RF that allows a radio to recreate multi-pathed signals, thus reducing retransmits and allowing high-frequencies to be used through obstables.

        I deployed an unlicensed 5.8 Ghz OFDM fixed wireless network in Vermont that covered three counties. Not only did the technology connect subscriber units to base-stations 4 miles away through the trees, it did it while delivering 3Mbps symetrical - with a VOIP call or two in the mix.
    • dude, yeah

      You're completely right. Too bad that Apple users are the most loyal group in the world. Apple users will buy the iPhone simply because it's Apple. It doesn't matter what they have to go through. They pay 2500 dollars for a computer I can buy for 900, then put OSX86 on to make it do everything the Apple does. They LIKE wasting money. Let them be.
  • Fail? Surely not.

    The problems you laid out will defeinitely hinder the iPhone from reaching the hypothetical potential it could should it be available to more networks, but blatently saying it will "fail" is a bit sensationalist and well, ridiculous, really.

    Regardless of anyone's opinion, the iPhone is going to sell a lot of units and make Apple a lot of money. You and I both know that.
  • The iPhone wont fail....

    because it's tied to a proprietary network. There are lots of models of phones out there tied to a limited number of carriers(including only 1).

    First you need to define failure versus success criteria for your article otherwise it's pointless.

    PS I am not buying an iPhone for the fact it is tied to Cingular(AT&T)
    • Carriers define phones and features

      That's the reality. Apple tried to fight that, but couldn't. But carriers today define phones and features. And they define them as limited, very limited, far more limited than what the iPhone can do.
  • can you say WiFi? can you say FREE??

    can you say get a clue???
    • There's just not enough of it

      There's a myth around, and you display it here, that the frequencies given over to WiFi are plenty of open spectrum.

      They are not. Not nearly.

      The WiFi frequencies prove the concept, that if you let equipment define the use of the resource, you will get more use of it.

      Now that the concept is proven, let's run with it, and open up more spectrum. A lot more. Because we know the power of it.
      • spectrum not the only issue

        It costs money to operate the network. Who pays for the interconnection back to the gateway servers? Who maintains the network? Who pays for the additional capacity when access nodes start getting overloaded?

        It will be interesting to see what happens with Sprint's WiMax trials. They do have the infrastructure to support it now and it shouldnt cost that much more to offer the additional service as it can piggy-back on the existing network.
        • Pah, they can afford it.

          For all of ?7.50/month I get unlimited data access for my WM5 based phone at speeds up to 3G. For an extra ?4.25/month I can use it as a 3G modem with my laptop. If I can do this here in 'rip-off Britain' where everything costs so much more than it does in the US, there can't possibly be a technical reason why your services continue to be fourth rate.
          • Europe must be 4th rate too then

            We have GSM (just like you do) and we have CDMA networks (which are the basis for W-CDMA). GSM will be migrating to a CDMA based standard. Using 3G EvDO I get over 1Mbps download. What is 3G speed for you?

            As for price, I agree with you things could be cheaper. Then again, I want everything cheaper. I also agree that everything is more expensive there. I know several people who moved here from the UK for that very reason.
          • I don't believe the iPhone does 3G.

            Neither, come to think of it, does New York last I heard (or is that just certain phone companies?). Having to be limited to GPRS/EDGE for a $600 phone is third rate, paying by the minute is just ludicrous. The mobile phone market in the US continues to boggle the minds of even those in the British Isles, we're used to you lot getting all the cheapness and [i]us[/i] being squeezed.

            1st rate would be Japan in case you're wondering, they've had 4G for some time now, they'd probably baulk at the idea of a phone with only a 2 megapixel camera too.
          • 3G Speed Considerations

            Not Japan - Korea. WiBro is 4G in Asia.

            There is no active UMTS network in the US (at least outside of testing) however, EDGE delivers 500K-1.2Mbps per user depening on subscription rate and number of voice calls - remember, currently voice traffic ALWAYS has priority over data traffic. Has a lot to do with how cell providers setup their backhaul to towers. Some dedicate circuit-switched channels at 64Kbps increments, others allow it to be dynamically allocated by call ques in the HDLR.

  • Nice to see another objective blogger at ZDNet

    Good to know you're not jumping the gun, or assuming things about a product that's not yet released, nor are you declaring it a failure in advance. Oops.

    One would suspect that most users will do minimal tasks using AT&T's sorry network and will find a Wifi spot for any internet intensive activity (see any coffee shop, or in my case, any college campus).
    tic swayback
    • No kidding

      everyone seems to be stuck in the rut that the only way to do internet is over the cellular network.

      It shows just how entrenched self-limiting paradigms are.