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Maravedis Analyst Briefs

The Era of Smart Distributed Wireless Broadband Networks

 

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Softbank-Sprint Expose Industry Choices

 

 

The pace of network evolution pivots around wireless broadband ICT has accelerated in a way that opens up new technology methods and levels of business.  They are far from being alone, however, Softbank gets that better than anyone in our opinion.

The public understanding of Clearwire as a company and how its surrounding environment is evolving to impact this 4G pure play is a good way to understand among the most dynamic aspects of wireless industry development that is increasingly centered around broadband spectrum as well as markershare, coverage and new devices and services.  The field is in a period of change that is as much impacted by the pace of innovation and growth in demand as it is by such aspects as the features on new SmartPhones.  The new age of change in ICT is based on communication as a fundamentall differentiation in how networks, devices, programs, and social interactions and organizations are formed.  When networks are conceived as delivering personal communications rather than just the mechanics of achieving higher efficeincy or a metered level of Quality of Service, QoS, then we start thinking differently about the role the operator play as the gatekeeper to access and personal and location based data interface that is critical to the new economy.  

There was much speculation among analysts and the media that Softbank or Sprint would acquire Clearwire.  Our thinking was that the speculation that would prove wrong has been confirmed by Sprint taking the step to the small amount of stock needed to take controlling interest in the company. Meanwhile, Softbank's CEO, Son, has said that he would not have made the move to acquire Sprint if he didn't see a large untapped opportunity centered around broadband, video, delivery of picture frame images, etc. The history of Softbank's growth in the Japanese market is synonymous with innovation in development of networks, SmartPhone devices and tailoring of products and marketing to individuals. 

The position of Sprint and Softbank to gain only enough ownership to express control over the deployment and use of the TD-LTE network puts Clearwire more squarely under the thumbs of the new owners who better understand how to build networks and markets. Central to that will be building better RAN network architecture that make use of a fuller extent of the technology, including small cells. 

The recent Bloomberg article based on the NY interview with Hesse and Son highlighted key aspects of what will unfold: Softbank capitalized on deployment of Wi-Fi and WiMAX to deliver higher capacity for 3G and 4G applications than competitors could match at the time. The 'massively microcell' deployment of LTE using 2.6GHz intends to keep the company a step ahead of competition in bandwidth while the notorious innovations in marketing will remain focused on giving customers more tailored service that is pitched to each category of use more effectively. 

Read more: The Era of Smart Distributed Wireless Broadband...

China, Communist control does not extend to closed competition for BB access

China is difficult for many westerners to understand: the intellect and culture stem from a different lineage than our Greco-Roman didactic 'scientific thinking'.  However, the confucianism, taoism construct blends well with scientific thought processes to yield results that are challenging for world dominance in many areas.  Part of the current woking out of the Chinese system is the seeming conflict between a high degree or censorship and control by the communist party and the society altering shattering of barriers to sharing of information of the broadband Internet.  One might think that the government would stifle broadband access, reducing things like open Wi-Fi access.  That has not been the case.  As this article points out, China is rapidly expanding access to Wi-Fi.. and as we know China Mobile, China Unicom and other operators will deploy literally millions of LTE base stations over the next five years.  The country already reports 165 million SmartPhones (although it rightly questions whether all of those are in the hands of users). However many might be inventoried, China already outstrips N. America and all of EU in SP use and the peak of deployments of networks and handsets has hardly been reached.   
 
China is pushing rapidly into fulfilling the national priority of making WBB available to a large part of their 1.3 billion people   
 
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China is pushing rapidly into fulfilling the national priority of making WBB available to a large part of their 1.3 billion people


Where the communist government maintains control is in what people can access: the 'China.com' central authority employs something like 20,000 people to screen websites, emails, etc. This keeps political criticism managed.. =not blocked entirely: sometimes the government has let criticism such as for rapid rail fiascos to boil up so long as it remained focused on on the transportation officials responsible for faulty construction.  Other instances has happened so quickly that the government has been caught off guard and then tended to try to shape public opinion rather than ban the discourse.  Increasingly, intellectuals in China and those who have left to the West, have voiced that China is in a stage of cultural revolution brought on by mobile and BB communications that outpaces any attempts by the government to completely control it.  That is starting to sound a lot like the political system in western societies: you can't stop spread of information so you polarize and shunt it toward irrelevant stuff like moral crusades and wars in barren feudal societies aimed at chasing down peasants brandishing kalashnikovs and suicide bombs while keeping the war machines well fed. China isn't feeding a war machine but they are feeding expansionist trade policies including massive underwriting of US currency in order to keep their trade machine humming. 
The point of this is China is pushing ahead with aggressive commercial deployments of 3G and LTE and, boiling up from municipal interests as well as mobile operators, open Wi-Fi access that is likely to grow to be 5X-10X that of the west.  It remains to be seen how extensive the metro coverage becomes, afterall, major plans for 'Metro-Fi' networks here in the USA proved very overly zealous.  However, today's WiFi roadmap is much better suited to do metro coverage... and since the prospect is for much of the use to be via SmartPhone and Phablet devices, the prospect for blended metrozone and wide area coverage become 'a whole new ball game' that is more politically/oligarchically restricted than technically or financially so.  
 
In the quest for 'who is doing what' trendsetting, the focus has shifted to APAC with China holding the access to their huge population as the catalyst.  Unlike India, a comparable sized population,  the Chinese are getting more done in most areas of infrastructure development, including wireless.