The mobile industry is starting to get its act together on mobile broadband. Long plagued by acronym soup, the GSM Association, along with 16 of the world's biggest operators and IT companies, has taken a leaf out of the Wi-Fi Alliance's book and launched a 'sticker' scheme for mobile broadband. Instead of users trying to work out whether they can get UMTS, 3G, HSPA or Turbo 3G, they just use equipment bearing the 'mobile broadband' service mark and know that they can connect to mobile broadband services.
The scheme will see communications technology preinstalled and preconfigured in laptops bearing the mobile broadband mark that will be ready to switch on and connect straight out of the box. To bear the mark, the device will need to offer fast mobile network connectivity from the GSM family of HSPA and above, including HSPA Evolved and LTE (here they go again with the acronym soup!). And the scheme is not limited to laptops, with the GSMA perhaps fancifully saying that the mark can be extended to deliver wireless broadband access to devices ranging from cameras to MP3 players; the only proviso is that the devices are fully mobile.
This is definitely a positive move for driving the uptake of mobile broadband, and it is clearly aimed squarely at 'stealing' business away from Wi-Fi hotspots. In fact the press release rather pompously intones that: "While there will always be a place for Wi-Fi connectivity, the great merit of Mobile Broadband might be that it liberates the user from the spatial tyranny of the so-called 'hotspot.'" According to figures from Wireless Intelligence, more than 55 million people already subscribe to Mobile Broadband services in 91 countries, with more than 4 million more users per month joining the party.
Of course, eliminating user confusion is only part of the barrier to mobile broadband uptake. Cost is still an issue, in particular when users roam to different countries. There are countless tales of execs being presented with massive bills for mobile data roaming when they travel, which makes businesses look towards the more predictably priced Wi-Fi hotspots. Luckily data roaming costs are already coming down as the industry reacts both to threatened regulation and market pressures and some operators are already speaking about driving international rates at wholesale level as low as €0.25 per megabyte. Rates as low as these will undoubtedly make mobile broadband attractive and cement GSM's position as the leading access technology.
After a Masters in Computer Science, I decided that I preferred writing about IT rather than programming. My 20-year writing career has taken me to Hong Kong and London where I've edited and written for IT, business and electronics publications. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Stewart Baines where I continue to write about a range of topics such as unified communications, cloud computing and enterprise applications.