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Your Help: The Wireless Debate

By - October 14, 2007

Radio Tower

This coming week at Web 2 I am leading a discussion on the wireless market. This is not my area of expertise, but I am fascinated by the ongoing fight between Google and its allies, on the one side, and the telecommunication companies on the other. (Background here and here).

To that end, I’ve got a very interesting panel of experts gracing the Edge: Wireless session. On the side of Google and an more open approach to the 700 Mhz spectrum is Ram Shriram, an early Google investor and board member, and also a Board member at Frontline Wireless, a holding company of sorts which exists to leverage the 700Mhz spectrum should it be able to acquire licenses. (Reed Hundt, former FCC chair, is Vice Chair of Frontline).

On the other side of the issue is Thomas Tauke, Executive Vice President of Public Affairs at Verizon Communications. Tauke is a former Iowan congressman and member of the House Telecommunications Subcommittee. He has the rather unenviable job of defending his industry in front of what will most likely be a skeptical audience.

To add another element to the conversation, I’ve also asked Martin Varsavsky, CEO of FON, to join the panel. FON represents a novel approach to blanketing the world in wireless spectrum – leveraging WiFi as a grass roots platform, the goal being bypassing the telcos through mass adoption. FON has some good stories to tell in parts of Europe, but not a lot of traction in the US, so far.

Now, with a panel such as this, there’s sure a lot to discuss, but I fear my own ignorance will stunt the conversation. What would you like to hear? I could really use your help. Thanks!

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3 thoughts on “Your Help: The Wireless Debate

  1. Jason Devitt says:

    John,

    I’ve written a lot about the issue from the perspective of developers and testified to Congress about it too. See here and here.

    Some questions for Verizon: how come I can connect any virus-ridden laptop in the world to your network (with a data card) but I can’t bring my own phone? Why should we trust you to manage your landline network neutrally without any new regulations when you have no intention of running your wireless network that way? Why should developers and VCs invest in wireless applications when carriers want to own every category that appears promising?

    Happy to talk more
    Jason

  2. Dag Kittlaus says:

    John,

    I have a few questions for you to ask the panel at the end of this post. First, some background…

    Point#1 (unleash the right skills…get results)
    I have been involved in wireless “data” services from the very beginning. In every case where there was some form of “openness” involved in the business model the market responded with exponential expansion. (Scandinavia pioneering the premium ring-tone market, Japan’s iMode network..etc) People WANT to use great mobile services if they are discoverable and relevant. But running a network and getting good at minimizing dropped calls is not the required skill set for creating brilliant mobile services…which is why you see fantastic growth when the model allows for those who ARE good at this a way to make money. Enter the open-ness debate.

    Point #2 (innovate fast and let the market decide)
    No one knows what services will win in mobile prior to trying them in the market. Case in point: iMode in Japan. DoCoMo spent huge dollars researching the what the killer app should be for the iMode launch. Winner? Mobile Banking. Never cracked their top 10. The ONLY way to win in this game is let lots of innovators in, give them a winning business opportunity and watch the games unfold. The internet model has shown us this. The aforementioned “closed” Verizon walled garden model does the opposite.

    So here are your questions:
    1. “Mr. Verizon, when nearly every historic example of widespread market adoption of new mobile services is based on open innovation, interoperability and incentives for third-party development….why are you still fighting to maintain the opposite?” Don’t let them claim that Verizon is a success case either. US data services are used by only 15-20% of the market. Europe, Japan, Korea are far higher when all “data” services are considered.
    2.”Mr. Google (aasuming Ram were representing them for a moment), given that you want mobile operators to share their network with you, are you also willing to share your search data with them so they can offer competing marketing services?”

    Good luck!
    Dag Kittlaus

  3. Dear John,

    Great panelists by the way! I would ask the following:

    Mr. Shiram (Google): if you were Mr. Thauke, what potential synergies do you see between Verizon and Fon.com

    Mr. Thauke (Verizon): if you were Mr. Varsavsky, would you rather like Google and Verizon compete or cooperate with each other?

    Mr. Varsavsky (Fon.com): if you were Mr. Shiram, which legislature would you like to see to better work together going forward?

    Best of luck,
    Juergen Fesslmeier

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