Consumers expect the devices they buy to be connected to their content collections, personal data, interpersonal communications and the Internet and other external data sources. That’s why innovation at CES is coming from companies that wouldn’t even have been considered part of the industry a few years ago.
Since Apple launched the iPhone and followed it up with the iPad, mobile telecommunications manufacturers and core technology providers have been driving profound changes in the consumer electronics business.
It’s the consequence of what Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg called “the networked society” during his keynote address at CES today. Citing commonly accepted industry statistics, Vestberg point out that the mobile telecoms industry boasts 6 billion subscriptions (not subscribers – many people have more than one subscription). About a billion of those accounts include broadband, a figure expected to grow to 5 billion by 2015.
“Anything that benefits from being connected will be connected in the future,” said Vestberg, predicting 50 billion devices will be on mobile networks by 2020, the vast majority using machine to machine (M2M) connections.
Many of those machines will be automobiles, which explains the growing presence of car makers at CES. Mobile phones may be distracting drivers today, but tomorrow M2M links between cars will dramatically improve safety.
4G networks will make automated control possible, according to Vestberg. Latency will drop from half a second on 3G networks to a tenth of a second on 4G technology, making mobile network responses comparable to the reaction time of an alert and skilled human driver.
Legacy consumer electronics manufacturers will make bigger and sharper video displays and richer, cleaner speakers and earphones. At least to the point human eyes, ears and brains can’t tell the difference.
Anything truly new will begin with telecommunications capability, and for most it will be based on wireless technology.
“4G is not 4G without the backhaul to support it,” said Sara Kaufman, an analyst who follows mobile operator strategy for Ovum, speaking today at the CTIA Enterprise & Applications conference in San Diego. Mobile carriers have to start by connecting cell sites to fiber networks when they upgrade their networks to 4G speeds using LTE technology.
She predicted robust growth for LTE-based 4G mobile data service in the U.S., but had trouble explaining exactly why. There’s “no convincing evidence of LTE services generating new revenues”, Kaufman said, pointing to another barrier to faster growth for the technology. So far, LTE lacks a killer app or new services that would make it more valuable to subscribers.
Subscriber adoption has been lackluster. Only 2% of Verizon’s customer base currently subscribes to LTE service. Kaufman does not see widespread demand for it, because mobile phone companies have not given consumers a compelling reason to buy a new phone and upgrade their mobile data service.
Even so, she believes LTE deployments are inevitable, citing figures from Ericsson that show smart phones use ten times the data that conventional, dumb phones use, and larger devices – laptops and, presumably, tablets – use ten times as much as smartphones.
Her case for LTE is made by cost savings, not revenue. The result is slower build outs, particularly for carriers that have deployed HSPA+ networks in the interim. “Eventually operators will have to move to LTE,” she concluded, “but there’s no rush to do it.”
Last to first, real time tweets from Las Vegas…
- Bill Gates is the UrGeek. Love or hate him, he’s an original with historic scope. Heroic in classical sense. Ballmer…
- Listening to Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO. Microsoft will rule the world. Honest.
- Sony shows great respect for mobile telecom carriers. Has WiFi Walkman in pipeline, but no 3/4G product that would cause consternation for Sony Ericsson’s mobile carrier customers.
- Sony sez not in negotiations for NZ/Australia mobile carrier deals for netbook, sorry Lifestyle PC, but GSM deals in Europe are locked.
- Even so, Sony netbook, sorry Lifestyle PC, is way cool. 600 grams, 20 cm screen. Uses Windoze OS but has a Linux bios & can boot either way.
- Sony intros netbook, sorry Lifestyle PC. $900. Includes wireless data card. Verizon deal for US, T-Mobile, Vodafone in EU. Nothing in New Zealand or Australia.
- Of course, Sony is cautious. Sony Ericsson is in bed with, and enthusiastically servicing, mobile telecom carriers.
- For CES, Sony divides its business into “in-home” & “out-of-home”. But out-of-home is mobile carrier-friendly, not consumer-focused.
- A couple words of Tagalog got me the sympathy of the bartender, though.
- My Japanese & German is an advantage at CES, Italian & Spanish no help.
- Lots of consumer-grade PR minions at what are supposed to be trade press-class events. Frustrating.
- Snuck a peek at Intel booth, heavy on mobile Internet & 4G, at least the WiMAX flavor.
- Cisco likes femtocell technology, puts it in the same bucket as WiFi. Interesting perspective.
- Steve Ballmer is tonight’s keynote, but here’s the advance scoop: Microsoft Bob is back!
- Apple it’s not but it’s a start for Cisco. They’ll need a lot of help though.
- Linksys by Cisco new consumer brand strategy, paying attention to product design now
- People started leaving, slid in for Q&A. Service provider guy talking about making networks video aware.
- Cisco PR kiddies say look it up on their website later. Duh.
- Cisco press conf overfull. Sent to watch a live web feed. Didn’t work. What business are they in?
- Line for Toshiba press conf too long. One way to manage reduced attendance is to book a smaller room.
- Sharp showing big displays. Really big.
- Line for Toshiba press conference out of control. Must be giving away free stuff.
- Netgear also showing IPTV player and home media center. Category is getting crowded, not much secret sauce anymore.
- Netgear has no deals with mobile carriers but sez they’ll appreciate increased data usage. Not convincing.
- CE guys determined to hang gizmos on mobile data networks: weeds in the walled garden!
- Streaming TV + tethered wifi router = bandwidth hell for carriers. CE guys are on the march!
- Netgear introing wifi router with slot for 3G data modem card. Sez 1 use is streaming TV.
- Skipped main event, checked out stuff afterwards. LG showing netbook, usual mobile phones, nice. Just nice.
- Line for LG press conf already strung out at 7:30am