Your wireless future
Phones that get you into concerts, tell co-workers not to call now - or even display which friends are at a show. The next phase of the mobile revolution is about to begin.
By Carlo Longino, Business 2.0 Magazine

(Business 2.0 Magazine) - Want to get a sense of where wireless technology is headed? Think back to where the Internet stood at a similar point in its development - say, sometime around 1998. Back then the computer had already become a fixture in a majority of American homes, while the Web and e-mail were just beginning to reshape the way people interact, socialize, and shop.

But better things were yet to come: At a time when 98 percent of Internet households still connected to the Net via dial-up modems, the telecom industry was spending billions to make broadband access more pervasive.

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Fast-forward to 2006. Today, 55 percent of U.S. homes have high-speed Internet access, and the industry is experiencing another wave of innovation as entrepreneurs create new products and services to exploit today's faster networks. Meanwhile, though more than half of all Americans now own mobile phones, most handsets are still limited by slow connection speeds.

But this, too, will soon change. Three of the four major U.S. carriers switched on high-speed 3G networks in 2005, and Wi-Fi hotspots continue to proliferate, with places like Philadelphia and San Francisco planning to create citywide Wi-Fi networks.

"We're connected in our homes. The next step is to be connected wherever we are," says Derek Kerton of wireless consultancy the Kerton Group.

And that's only part of the story. Technologies like Wi-Max could introduce more competition by eliminating the advantages that telephone and cable companies now enjoy thanks to ownership of the wires that deliver broadband into homes and offices. Unlike a Wi-Fi hotspot, which provides wireless access within a radius of just a few hundred feet, Wi-Max creates a wireless cloud big enough to cover several square miles.

"It's hard to get excited by the technology as it exists now," says James Enck, an analyst at Daiwa Securities SMBC Europe. "But when you look at everything that's happening, it starts to get really interesting."

Put simply, we're on the cusp of a dramatic transformation that will extend far beyond the mere ability to download e-mail, photos, and webpages more quickly. Plentiful wireless bandwidth, coupled with more sophisticated mobile devices, will usher in a new generation of wireless tools and services.

By clicking on the links below, you'll get an advance look at some of the technologies that promise to make this new era of mobility truly revolutionary.

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