Saturday, January 07, 2006

Cingular vs. Verizon and Why Cingular Will Win

CDMA, the wireless format that Verizon uses, is a dead-end technology. There are too many limitations associated with CDMA which keep major players like Motorola from investing a lot of R&D money, which is why Verizon has such horrible phones. Verizon needs to capitalize on features other than plain phone calls if they are to make any money, since that's where the cash cow is grazing these days. They had an early win last year with their EV-DO network and "VCast," but no one is biting because Verizon cripples their equipment (puts limits on their phones such as making Bluetooth virtually useless) in an attempt to force the consumer to use their pay services.

Cingular, on the other hand, started out by using the global wirless standard of GSM. That was slow to get started in the US but eventually became the dominant technology on this side of the Atlantic just as it had done in Europe. This is why Cingular always has the coolest phones and PDAs. Now, Cingular is rolling out HSDPA - a super fast wireless standard that will allow broadband internet speeds to your cellphones (think full motion TV, person to person video conferencing and networked game playing). This is a world first. No one else has anything even close to HSDPA.

Cingular's potential weakness, however, is letting the technology get ahead of profit-making. That's what happened to AOL. Once the internet was ubiquitous, people didn't see the need to pay $25 a month for a crappy portal with features you could find for free anywhere on the web. That's what could happen with this HSDPA. Phones allow you to do so much now, such as letting you add on secondary programs to do things Cingular offers for a fee, that users may eventually get smart and stop using the provider for content (which is why Verizon stubbornly sticks to making their customers use their services by crippling the technology).

Of course, the ace in the hole is airtime. No matter what feature you use, or how you do it, there is airtime involved. Cingular, with the 3mbps broadband achieved by HSDPA, could potentially slap cable companies in their faces. Imagine paying $75 a month and being able to take your laptop (with a Cingular aircard or BT enabled phone as tether) anywhere in the country and have high speed internet access and full motion quality TV on your computer (streamed, of course)! I think I would cancel my $50 Cox service pretty fast.

This, my friends, is why Cingular will win the wireless wars.

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