But the authors venture into new territory, spotting a nascent threat to the supposedly bright future of wireless telephony carriers... VOIP over Wi-Fi. Exerpt:
Last year American home users bought 12.7 million Wi-Fi transmitters for their computers, says research firm In-Stat/MDR. That poses a ready audience for a second major threat confronting big carriers: Voice over Wi-Fi, which lets callers use free airwaves to gain wireless access to the Internet. A home or office Wi-Fi network for a laptop's wireless Internet access provides a ready-made pathway for Wi-Fi-enabled phones. Voice over Wi-Fi threatens to steal traffic from the cellular business (with $88 billion in annual revenue in the U.S.), already a harshly competitive world where per-minute prices have fallen by half in the last three years. Few users now have Wi-Fi phones, since currently the phones only work in places like San Antonio Community Hospital that have thorough Wi-Fi coverage. (Leave the hospital, the phone stops working.)
While the authors are to be applauded for having picked up on VOIP over Wi-Fi... they missed the larger trend entirely, that VOIP/WI-Fi phones used in enterprises and homes won't stop working when leaving the "private" Wi-Fi coverage of an enterprise or home. In places like Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, the city of Cerritos, California, the Auckland, New Zealand metopolitan area, Spokane, Washington, and soon Silicon Valley, ubiquitous Wi-Fi coverage will be available. (Each of these examples are existing deployments of "Metro Wi-Fi" by different vendors.)
Then again, I can't really fault the Forbes editors for not "finishing the story". The threat of VOIP over Wi-Fi potentially destroying tens of billions of dollars of market value of wireless telephony companies is plenty frightening to Forbes' audience of corporate and investor readers... the idea that such value destruction is actually in progress is probably too terrifying to commit to the pages of Forbes.
Copyright (c) 2004 by Steve Stroh (exclusive of the except from Forbes). This article originally appeared on Corante / Broadband Wireless Internet Access.
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