The Phone That Wasn't There

Posted by: Stephen Wildstrom on March 28, 2007

With a general dearth of exciting new products to talk about at the CTIA Wireless show, much of the buzz in Orlando concerned the product that isn’t here—Apple’s forthcoming iPhone. And of course, with no one having had more than, at best, a quick glimpse at an iPhone prototype in January, the phone is still in that magical space where it could be and do anything.

It’s mere announcement is already having real effects at the show. Most notable, Sprint Nextel has cut the price of music downloads for a new Samsung phone in half to match iTunes’ 99 cents. AT&T’s Cingular got bragging rights by announcing that a million prospective customers have registered interest on the company’s Web site to get more information about the iPhone. And executives of carriers and handset makers fretted about what iPhone will do to their business.

Perhaps the most interesting new product actually present in Orlando is Verizon’s new live video broadcast service. Verizon has “soft launched” the $15 a month service in 25 markets, meaning it is available but not publicized or marketed yet. Two phones, the Samsung U620 and the LG VX9400 can receive eight channels of broadcast television delivered by Qualcomm’s MediaFLO service. I spent a bit of time playing with the LG version. Picture and audio quality was impressive—much better than Verizon’s over-the-network Vcast service, but the limited channel selection and lack of on-demand programming makes me wonder how popular it will be. I’ll be doing a full review when the service matures a little more.

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Reader Comments

Robert Stone

March 28, 2007 01:51 PM

What nobody is talking about is what is going behind the curtain for all these new phones.

Currently you and I accept dropped calls and bad audio calls on our cell phones. However, when we start doing real-time online video gaming, watching a sports broadcast, doing two-way video messaging - we won't put up with glitches and dropped calls. That is why many of the leading service providers and carriers are quickly trying to upgrade their networks to support the demands of video.

Video requires what is known as five 9's of reliability - 99.999 uptime. Most cell networks don't come close. Companies like Kontron, Emerson, etc. are providing next generation hardware for telecom companies while Enea (www.enea.com) is providing the needed middleware and operating systems.

Bob Stone

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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