The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Just a couple of days ago, I pondered the impact that wi-fi enabled mobile phones would have on the telephone industry:
Would wi-fi calling kill off the Verizon Wirelesses and Sprints of the world? I doubt it. Just as the present mobile phone networks can't cover everything, neither can decentralized wi-fi hotspots, no matter how widespread. Even if many of those hotspots are accessible (and not encrypted or otherwise restricted), they're not going to be wholly reliable, and they're not going to be present in many areas (interstate highways, for instance).

I do think that a combination of traditional wireless phone networks and wi-fi clouds would be a great solution. If more devices like Motorola's "switcher" phone become commonplace (perhaps based on Bluetooth technology?), wi-fi would definitely become part of the telecommunications equation.
This sort of scenario seems to be the foundation upon which AT&T Corp. struck a deal to get back into the wireless market by using Sprint's network. The future is already here, as far as AT&T is concerned. The reliance on wi-fi to supplement this re-entry is intimated here:
AT&T expects to add wireless service to its local and long-distance calling packages. In addition, AT&T plans to offer handsets that also allow customers to make VoIP calls over Wi-Fi connections in homes and businesses.
The sell-off of AT&T Wireless to Cingular now makes a lot more sense, from a competitive angle. AT&T Corp. leveraged a way to get ahead in the wireless game: Concentrate on handset manufacturing, bet big on those handsets' wi-fi capability (and by extension, wi-fi's role in reshaping future telephony), get liquidity from the Cingular deal, and most critically, not have to maintain a costly and increasingly irrelevent proprietary network system.

It's brilliant. Who'd have guessed such a forward-thinking strategy would have come from such a hide-bound company like AT&T?