By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Wireless Supersession panelists at CES identified integrated communications services and content as key drivers in the wireless industry's challenge to raise average subscriber revenues.
During the session, Motorola UWB operation director Martin Rofheart also said commercial ultra wideband (UWB) products would be available in the home late this year to wirelessly distribute video in the home. The technology was being demonstrated at CES.
In his opening comments, Sprint president Len Lauer underscored the telecom industry's need to integrate different services, including landline and wireless, to "get out of the same-for-less" rat race and ease consumer frustration. Consumers who have home Wi-Fi networks, for example, should be able to use their cellular phone inside the house as a cordless voice-over-IP (VoIP) phone, he said. Likewise, consumers should be able to integrate cellular service with home phones "to cut the landline cord," and the industry should eliminate the difference between local and long distance, he added.
Without stating a timetable, Lauer said Sprint will "come out with services to use different wireless services in the house."
On another topic, Lauer downplayed rival Verizon's plans to roll out nationwide high-speed CDMA 1x EV-DO data service, contending that there's no dough in implementing DO right now. Rolling out DO is affordable for a carrier, but subscriber adoption will be lacking for about two years "because the consumer market has to be there with the business market," he said. The consumer DO market is about two years away, however, because initial DO-handset prices will be high, and their battery life will be short, he contended.
Because DO handsets will require a separate DO chip and separate CDMA 1x chip, they'll retail for $250 to $300 after rebates, he contended. A carrier's cost to buy the handsets will range from $400 to $450. New high-speed data services such as streaming video, he added, will quickly drain today's cellphone batteries.
In outlining the potential for content to reduce churn and raise carrier revenues, Disney executive Steve Wadsworth cited his company's success in Japan, where more than 3.7 million people subscribe to one or more of Disney's 30 content services. "Similar momentum," he said, "is building in the U.S.," where the company already streams video of a 24/7 Web-based ABC News channel to Sprint CDMA 1x handsets. That service, which delivers video as a slide show, "is doing very well," he said.
Wadsworth reiterated that Disney is investigating a launch of a Disney-branded MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) wireless-phone service, but the company is "looking hard" before it decides because "it is frightening what it takes to execute successfully in this business."
Motorola's Rofheart expressed no such qualms about the success of UWB, a low-power high-datarate personal area network (PAN) technology that will be used to transfer audio, video and data within a home. He described UWB as "delivering the video portion of Bluetooth. Motorola's XtremeSpectrum UWB chipset achieves up to 114Mbps datarates and consumes less than 200mW of power.
At the show, three suppliers demonstrated UWB-equipped products using engineering samples of Motorola's UWB chips, which will be in production this year, Rofheart said. One of the demos was in the Samsung booth, where the company transmitted three HDTV streams simultaneously.
Commercial products available sometime this year with Motorola's UWB chips will include flat-panel displays, set-top boxes, and DLP TVs, Rofheart said.
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