The Future is Life-Mobile Convergence

By: Tim Young

The latest Cisco VNI for mobile was just released, and as always, the forecast is one of crazy growth on the mobile front. By 2021—a scant four years away—we could be looking at 5.5 billion mobile users worldwide. Global networks will be tasked with supporting 12 billion mobile-ready devices and connections. And those devices will chew through some major traffic, with a predicted seven-fold increase in global data traffic by 2021. That’s a CAGR of 47 percent.

And while, at the moment, the majority of objects added to the network are smartphones, tablets, and PCs, there is a growing percentage of “things”—IoT modules—being added as well. The former is forecast to eclipse the latter by 2019.

Smartphones will be responsible for 48% of all traffic, fixed and mobile, thanks in part to WiFi offloading.

And I find that significant and interesting. In my early days as a telecom beat reporter, I distinctly remember sitting down with companies like Cramer and Syndesis at Supercomm 2005 and talking about fixed-mobile convergence. Specifically, I remember chatting about the BT “BluePhone,” later known as BT Fusion.

Way beyond FMC

The idea that a single handset could transition seamlessly from fixed to wireless networks without dropping a call was exciting and interesting, especially since we were still so accustomed to the wireless experience and the fixed experience to be so incredibly distinct from one another at the time. My little Nokia 1100 sure as heck didn’t have a web browser. It didn’t even have a color screen. I could make calls, send the (very) occasional text message (though it took FOREVER), and play Snake. It also had a built-in flashlight. Come to think of it, I miss that little phone.

Point is, there was no confusing my barebones mobile experience with what I had at home, with my cable box, my landline phone, and my handy-dandy desktop computer (complete with 21-inch CRT monitor).

A dozen years later, the experience is practically seamless and I watch movies on my iPad in bed. We’ve got one great TV that’s good for football games and family movie nights, but even that ends up getting fed content by the tiny computer I carry with me everywhere I go. That little bugger’s got a data cap, but I rarely even come close to going over because, unless I’m in my car, I’m pretty much on WiFi.

So did we fulfill that dream of fixed-mobile convergence? Sure. Maybe not in the way we thought we would, but the two have blended so fully that the divide is almost meaningless from an end-user’s perspective.

In a recent Forbes article, author John Koetsier gave the last word to wireless industry consultant Chetan Sharma, who summed up the trajectory of the industry by saying, "Mobile is everywhere and in everything to a point we will stop using the word mobile."


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