The Mobile Broadband Battlefield

Barcelona—A little over a year after Apple announced its iPhone, which touted—amongst other things—web browsing and flat-rate data pricing, the implications are being felt very strongly here in Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress. Apple´s iPhone may have the corner on curb appeal, but its EDGE data speeds are a dog when compared to broadband offerings being shown at this year´s event.

I´ll be posting details about different streaming media companies and service plays over the next few days, including a few podcast interviews, but before that, this article provides an overview of the "big things" at the show.

Formerly known as GSM World Congress, but expanded to address mobile phone and mobile data of all types, including WiMAX, Long Term Evolution (LTE) and "standard" fare such as EVDO Rev A (which U.S. subscribers to Verizon use, along with a few other countries), the show has taken on the feel of a web tradeshow from a few years back.

In terms of LTE, the technology also known as 4G that both Verizon and AT&T Wireless have expressed interest in, Nortel and LG showed off very robust wireless broadband.

"We have the internet, now we want the wireless internet," said Scott Wickware, vice president of marketing and strategy for Carrier Networks at Nortel. "You can email, but you can't send or open certain files. You can surf the net, but you have to wait ages for pages to load. And forget about watching a video. Your other option is to search out a WiFi hot spot where you'll then have to pay yet another connection fee. When you go mobile, all of a sudden you are forced to pay attention to the network, and you shouldn't have to."

4G also includes WiMAX, which Sprint famously intended to roll out in the U.S.—and may still—and several players at the show have announced interest in WiMAX as the next generation network for the very same reasons Nortel touts LTE. Samsung, for instance, has been putting significant effort in WiMAX, a long-range evolution of WiFi, and says that it will have at least three WiMAX phones out this year.

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