Godspeed next generation mobile networks, lots of speed

The annual circus that is the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas has become the most important mobile tech conference outside of Mobile World Congress and a fascinating lens into upcoming trends. With more than 150,000 attendees this year, the event continues to attract an international audience of impressive scope across mobile devices, applications, home media and all measure of things in between. While most of the major announcements focus on short-term product releases, some of the more fascinating details are those with longer term implications. This year’s CES provided a few gems with some truly interesting potential.

With its hectic keynote presentation Qualcomm highlighted several key technologies and a new generation of chipsets that promise to position mobile devices front and center in future media and gaming circles. With Qualcomm’s new 800 series chipsets, next generation smartphones and tablets will not only benefit from 2.3GHz quad-core processors, but will also enable the devices to handle Ultra HD video and HD audio. Both standards are currently the exclusive domain of ultra high-end audio-visual products, but by year-end the market will likely boast mobile devices that will equal or surpass game consoles and other dynamic media products. For the first time, mobile devices will be in a position to offer audio and video performance that will outpace all but the most advanced audio/visual equipment.

Frankly, I suspect that the thought of smartphones enabled to work with Ultra HD and HD Audio files has caused spontaneous bouts of weeping among the world’s top mobile network engineers. After all, Ultra HD video and HD audio are large enough to make just about any mobile network scream to a halt, so the possibility that millions of consumers will soon have the means and interest to access such files over the internet should strike fear into mobile operators everywhere. Granted, efforts to expand LTE coverage and create capacious “het-net” style access architectures will continue to improve the experiences available on the world’s top mobile networks, but we’re still a few years off before LTE Advanced capabilities are commonplace in all major global markets. But with mobile device technologies now outstripping the pace of innovation of mobile network engineers, the innovation balance has shifted to devices and placed the onus on mobile network operators to keep up with the pace. Even with robust wifi options available, the next generation of HD media files represent a potential bottleneck of serious proportions.

Even with the very real challenge of facilitating HD format files over mobile networks, the new capabilities open up unique business models for early market leaders. For companies that failed to hold their own against Apple’s iTunes with regards to mobile music and video, the democratization of highly capable mobile devices opens up tremendous opportunities for new players to offer next generation music and video services. The applications and infrastructure to handle such files are still a ways away, but in the not-too-distant future the mobile device will have the potential to act as the nexus for consumer media and gaming. And with that I say, godspeed next gen mobile networks.

  • CES

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