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Reality Check (Special Edition): The mobile American revolution

Editor’s Note: Welcome to our weekly Reality Check column. We’ve gathered a group of visionaries and veterans in the mobile industry to give their insights into the marketplace.
Despite having previously been late adopters of new mobile technologies, the United States has taken the lead in the mobile broadband revolution and is showing no signs of slowing down.
The future for the United States is extremely promising with several operators moving toward the Long Term Evolution standard for next generation networks. Take a look at this past month:
–Verizon Wireless said it plans to add 59 markets to its LTE network, reaching 147 U.S. cities.
–LightSquared signed up Leap Communications Inc., Open Range Communications and Best Buy for LTE services.
–AT&T Mobility said it is still on track to turn on its LTE network later this year.
The mobile industry is poised to see tremendous growth because the majority of network operators around the world are now committing to LTE for the next generation of mobile broadband. This is a great sign for the entire mobile ecosystem and its customers – consumers and businesses of all sizes.
Today, two of the 19 commercially live LTE networks across the globe are in the United States. By the end of this year, it is predicted that the United States will have more than 1.5 million LTE connections, with Asia-Pacific trailing with just over 1 million connections. By 2015, we expect to have almost 300 million connections across 55 countries.
How did we get here?
Early mobile services were about connecting people, with the United States leading when Bell Labs proposed a cellular network system in the late 1940’s. With the first commercial voice call placed on October 13, 1983, and popularity of the Motorola Inc. DynaTAC, the first generation of mobile showed promise with the need to innovate. However, it was with the advent and widespread global adoption of GSM that mobile gained a second strength – the feeling of ubiquity. It is this that still underpins basic mobile phone service today. However, many North American operators chose not to use GSM, putting them outside of the global mainstream.
The next shift in mobile services connected the world’s population to the Internet via mobile phone, and its strength was the exponentially increasing power of networks. European and Asian operators accelerated the mobile Web through common adoption of standards, while the United States continued to focus on alternative technologies. This placed U.S. operators in the midst of a second standards war between UMTS and CDMA2000. Outside of the United States, UMTS was the standard across vast territories, which contributed to the success of mobile with interoperability and hassle-free roaming, along with backwards compatibility to GSM.
Now we stand on the verge of another shift. Mobile is connecting everything in our lives, capitalizing on mobile’s power of ubiquity, interoperability and the increasing network power. Devices – tablets, netbooks, laptops and smartphones are driving a new, “post-PC” era, but this third wave of mobile will connect ever more diverse objects, and hence has the power to transform business practices across multiple industries. The mobile industry will move from more than 5 billion connections today to more than 20 billion connected things by 2020. All of this is made possible by the robust innovation and investment by mobile operators, amounting to over $120 billion in capital expenditures in 2010, in mobile broadband networks. With the rapid development and adoption of LTE, the United States is primed to ride this third wave ahead of other economies, but can also be safe in the knowledge that LTE will unify the global mobile industry after over 20 years of separation from the mainstream.
Making the connection
Just as the U.S. market accelerated the pace and adoption of the Internet to change business models, create categories and drive innovation, LTE has greater promise. Eventually, the difference between the wired and wireless versions of the Internet will converge to a single, ubiquitous connected experience. LTE networks will be able to fulfill the promise of being able to do business anytime, anywhere on any device.
Devices from health, utilities, transportation and consumer electronics industries will be made more compelling by the addition of mobile connectivity. One of the better attended exhibits at this year’s Mobile World Congress was the embedded mobile home, a showcase of the devices of a connected life, from intelligent pill vial caps to “post PC-era” tablet computers. In its early stages today, there are already 95 LTE devices currently available from 32 vendors.
The mobile communications industry is a global success story with more than 6 billion connections forecast by the end of the year. It generated $750 billion in annual revenues in 2010 and is forecast to reach $1 trillion in 2013 via an exponentially increasingly powerful network. This is a huge opportunity for everyone, improving the way that we work, live and play, while also offering a tremendous platform for the United States to trailblaze the path to the connected life.

Dan Warren joined the GSM Association (GSMA) in 2007 as Director of Technology with a particular focus on helping the Association drive forward standards and technologies including High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) mobile broadband, Long Term Evolution (LTE) standards and IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) as well as providing internal technical consultancy to GSMA’s Projects and Working Groups. Prior to joining the GSMA, Warren worked for Vodafone and Nortel. Warren has a degree in Mathematics and a PhD in Applied Mathematics.

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