And the news just keeps on coming. Of the “well yeah” variety, ATT has announced that the next generation 3G-capable iPhone (which currently runs on the not-latest/fastest approach, EDGE) will come in ’08. Steve Jobs, Apple’s head honcho, promised late ’08, but the ATT announcement was without that qualifier (hope someone didn’t get in trouble for that :). Sooner is better here, with everyone making technology leaps every few months.
The more interesting news is that Verizon has announced that their next generation technology will be LTE (Long Term Evolution, a 4th generation of mobile phone technology). The reason this is interesting is that LTE is GSM, not CDMA. In case this is acronym soup to you, let me explain it practically. Currently in the US, there are two competing standards, CDMA (Sprint and Verizon to date) and GSM (ATT and T-Mobile). This is unlike most of the world, which runs on GSM. If Verizon moves to GSM, that will leave Sprint alone, which probably won’t be a good place to be.
They also used to not play well together, even on the same technology. With Verizon’s other recent announcement of opening their standards to allow phones they don’t control to play on their network, and Google’s announcement of their Open Handset Alliance and the Android standard, we’re really changing the market for mobile.
Despite the disadvantages that the US mobile market has had between the proprietary approaches, we’ve had cheap data. If we also get broad coverage, high speed networks, and an open playing field to supplement that opportunity, mobile could really take a quantum leap in capability and consequently in opportunity.
The US has a real chance here to become a mobile trend-setter instead of a laggard over the course of a few years, and the pressure will be on other countries to start freeing up data bandwidth as well. The winner should be the consumer. Of course, it will still take time to play out, and who knows what sorts of other barriers they’ll try to put in, but there’s reason for optimism, and for innovative ideas to have a better chance to come to fruition. Fingers crossed….