Highlights from the RCR Wireless Global Tour, San Francisco

Wireless technology innovators and other RCR Wireless community members gathered in San Francisco this week to discuss the future of the world’s most exciting industry. The event was held at the Four Seasons hotel and participants enjoyed two tours of that building’s Distributed Antenna System, whereby a high-end facility turned customer complaints about wireless coverage into some of the best indoor coverage around. That system was built by event sponsor Crown Castle, and the tours were of great interest to event attendees. (Above: Photos from the tour.)

Talks from the event were broadcast live online and will be available for viewing at your convenience here.

The big takeaway from the event was a reminder that the wireless industry is always full of surprises. As David Piethe of AT&T’s antenna group said in the final talk of the event, his company has seen 8,000% wireless data growth over the past four years and will spend $20 billion on wireline and wireless growth next year. An environment like that has got to be hard to make predictions in.

Event Co-Chair Derek Kerton of analyst firm Kerton Group reminded participants throughout the day that in such a fast-growing field, you’d be wrong if you assumed that current incumbents had everything wrapped up. You’d have been wrong, for example, if you declared Palm the winner of the mobile application market years ago after it looked like everyone was just going to develop for them.

Barbara Nelson of enterprise connectivity service iPass gave a great presentation about the nascent world of Wi-Fi offloading, a technology that people thought was dead when 3G was born but is now becoming a key enabler for 3G and LTE networks that are over capacity.

Francis Sideco of hardware analyst firm iSuppli told event participants that his company believes the next generation of innovation and commercial opportunities for mobile operators is in the personal cloud of user-generated data and social interaction. That was an interesting thing to hear a hardware specialist discuss.

Speaking of consumer data and its potential, Mitchell Wu of ZTE shared great stories about enabling application developers on the carrier level. China Mobile, for example, already offers eHealth services to its customers as a carrier, such as health reporting, tracking, social interaction and videoconferencing with doctors.

In a world awash with data — largely from application users, where apps are built on data platforms — those mobile apps need to be agile and iterative to best serve the enterprise, said Praveen Narra, CEO of Indyzen. Data-centric, cloud-strong apps that use device sensors and user data ought to iterate every two weeks, he said. That was an inspirational way to frame the challenge ahead.

More big-picture framing was offered by John Feland, CEO of Argus Insights. When it comes to the sea of user data, the opportunities it provides and the challenges it presents, Feland said, “We’ve exceeded our ability to deal with what we’ve created, and we’re going to spend the next few decades stumbling through that.”

That sounds like a great opportunity, enabled by wireless connectivity. Thanks for joining us to explore that landscape.

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