In terms of mobile data, our smartphones are far more reliant on Wi-Fi. So why are carriers so single-mindedly focused on acquiring new licensed spectrum and building expensive 3G and 4G networks, when they could implement more Wi-Fi and tap into other sources of unlicensed spectrum?
Ericsson has agreed to purchase BelAir Networks to help boost its Wi-Fi credentials, just as we said it would. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but this deal was all about Wi-Fi and the changing needs of the mobile operator.
The idea of using solar power for off the grid electricity is not new. But the Econet Home Power Station, being developed for the African market, tells us a lot about the integration of cellular networks, payments, and the electrical grid in the developing world. The device’s developer is Econet Wireless, a mobile carrier with operations from Botswana to Burundi, and the solar generator contains a SIM card to allow customers to pay wirelessly for the power generated. Mobile payments have had far greater success in Africa because people have cellphones, but don’t have credit cards or laptops. Paying for off the grid power wirelessly is an important innovation that makes it easy for companies to charge for deploying renewable energy to places like Africa, where 70 percent of people don’t have electricity.
Apple may be on the verge of opening its Japanese iPhone sales to another cellular service provider, ending SoftBank’s exclusive hold on the popular smartphone. It’s the latest in a series of exclusivity-ending deals from Apple, and it’s the culmination of an elaborate marketing plan.
Verizon’s turning on its LTE network in 15 cities and expanding 4G coverage in 10 cities, bringing more than half the U.S. population under its next-generation wireless network on Thursday. Since its launch in December, Verizon’s LTE network now covers 160 million people in 117 cities.
The European digital music service Spotify finally launched today in the U.S., and reviewers seem pretty impressed. But while Spotify has a mobile client for smarthpones — as do its major competitors — I’m still skeptical about the market for on-the-go music. Don’t get me wrong: demand for mobile music is as strong as ever. But as my colleague Kevin C. Tofel recently documented, listening to decent-sounding music over cellular networks eats into data plans pretty quickly, which is a huge problem in the era of capped data plans. And while Wi-Fi connectivity is becoming ubiquitous, it’s the cellular support that makes such services truly mobile. Pandora has proven that people want on-the-go music, but I don’t think many will be willing to pay heft data charges in addition to those subscription fees.
Crown Castle last week completed its $115 million acquisition of NewPath Networks, which builds and operators distributed antenna systems (DAS) networks. The deal, among others, underscores the increasing importance this technology will play in the future deployment of mobile services.
The ailing music industry is increasingly looking to offset plummeting CD revenues by leveraging phones as digital-age retail counters. But as ringtone sales continue to slide and full-track downloads struggle to get legs, advertising dollars may be the last, best hope for the record labels.