Tuesday, May 20, 2008
In my previous article on convergence, I discussed the mobile baseband radio. While the WAN capability is most important, it also needs to be complemented by the so-called connectivity solutions. WiFi, bluetooth, GPS, FM and mobile TV have increasing penetration in the higher-end phones and will be a part of the convergence devices of tomorrow.
WiFi can facilitate seamless mobility for your voice call while also offloading internet browsing from the cellular network when you are near a wireless hotspot. WiFi can be used in conjunction with cellular systems today to enable fixed-mobile telephony convergence (FMC). There are dual mode handsets that can offload the burden on cellular networks, address in-building coverage issues and also switch your call seamlessly between the Wide-Area Network (WAN) and the Local Area Network (LAN).
Bluetooth as a short-range wireless technology has carved itself a niche, especially in the headset market. Legislations mandating in-car hands-free driving is one of the trends that will drive bluetooth penetration into mobile devices. The bluetooth standard has been improved to handle more sophisticated use cases such as stereo audio and high-speed data transfer. While some use cases overlap with those of WiFi, the audio profiles of bluetooth will find a unique place in the convergence movement.
GPS will help enabling location-based services (LBS). Like the GPS companies would like to say, tomorrow will not just be about when but also about where. GPS will be part of most if not all mobile devices in five years. Qualcomm has been bundling GPS with its chipsets for a while now with the hope that LBS will become more important that the mandatory E911 services. You can also look at GPS in your convergence device as the merger of the PND with the mobile phone. Garmin is attempting just that with its Nuvifone.
Mobile TV, for me, is perhaps the least exciting of the major convergence devices components. The reason is display. Display technology today is a far cry from enabling a good TV experience in your hand-held. Realizing this impediment, companies like Qualcomm are investing in display technology. High quality displays such as Qualcomm's Mirasol along with features such as retractable thin screens and a wide network coverage can help change the picture (pun intended).
FM will also become a staple. Besides these technologies, we can also think of Zigbee, RFID, UWB as other candidate radios that can convergence in your mobile device. These may come as part of a second wave that will seek to converge home networking as well.