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Wireless-Internet convergence is hot topic at conference

"Emerge@Wireless" was the theme of this year's Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA) annual conference, with the convergence of wireless communication and the Internet clearly the pr...

July 1, 2000  

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“Emerge@Wireless” was the theme of this year’s Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA) annual conference, with the convergence of wireless communication and the Internet clearly the primary driver.

The Canadian wireless industry has ramped up into an unprecedented period of growth, as indicated by statistics presented at the conference, held from May 29-31 at Toronto’s Metro Convention Centre:

By the year 2004, the wireless industry will overtake wireline in Canada. (Peter Barnes, president of CWTA).

By 2003, there will be more wireless devices on the Internet than PCs. (Jim Chapman, VP of Wave Rider).

Every two seconds, a new wireless subscriber is activated somewhere in the world, and the Canadian industry is set for growth rates of 20 to 30 per cent yearly for the foreseeable future. (Steve Johnson, Transcept).

Wireless communications is a $4 billion a year industry in Canada with over 7 million mobile phones and more than 10 million mobile devices in use in Canada, (John Manley, Minister of Industry).

A crystal ball prediction by Andre Tremblay of Microcell posits 100 per cent penetration of wireless devices in Canada within five to 10 years.

The conference featured ‘supersessions’ including a mobile wireless industry forum, a broadband wireless forum and a wireless Internet forum. It also included focus sessions on such areas as wireless 9-1-1, advanced messaging, wireless health and safety, funding and e-commerce (in this arena referred to as ‘m-commerce’ or mobile-commerce).

And there were a variety of big names on hand, including guest speakers such as: Bob Young, chair of Red Hat Inc., the largest Linux company in the world; and Yvon Le Bars, a member of the College of French Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (l’ART), speaking on the organizations’ short history (the organization was founded in 1997) and challenges.

Means to an end

“Wireless is not an end in itself, it’s a means to an end,” said Andre Tremblay, president and CEO of Microcell, 50 per cent owner of the newly licenced national MCS operator Inukshuk, which secured 12 of the 13 possible new licences in the 2.5 GHz frequency. “The future is not only convergence, but integration.” That integration will see wireless carriers selling far more value-added services with their air-time packages including full-capability Internet, e-commerce, security and location services, to name only a few.

Other strong opinions on issues and directions for the wireless industry emerged from the three-day conference. These include:

trends towards substitution of wireline services with wireless service, and the need for local number portability on an individual level;

the rapid acceleration of wireless to full Internet functionality including all Internet services currently available on wireline, with the added capability of a host of new and not-yet-conceived of location/navigation services;

statistical evidence that as competition increases, penetration also increases;

identification of the top wireless market focus of 12 – 17 year olds, with an emphasis on female subscribers.

Oh Canada

In addition, information emerging from the event showed Canada in an interesting position: Canada is the most wired nation in the world, has the lowest wireless prices in the world, but is not leading in terms of wireless uptake — that honour belongs to Finland where over 60 per cent of the population has a wireless device. Addressing the issues such as local number portability, ‘caller-pay’ provisions and development of must-have applications are seen as some of the answers to Canadian penetration rates.

Less than five per cent of buildings in Canada are connected by fiber, which provides a massive opportunity for wireless. As Steven Spooner, president and CEO of Stream Intelligent Networks Corp., noted: “We are on the edge of the next revolution.”

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