The Future of Mobile is Fixed. By Professor William Webb, President of IET
Professor William Webb, The IET, shares exclusive observations from the CW Prestigious Lecture Series “The future of mobile is far from fixed (yet)”
Coming to tell an organisation whose name includes the word “wireless” that it’s future is linked to wires might seem like a foolhardy move but it paved the way to a fascinating Prestige Lecture by Tim Whitley, MD of BT’s Research and Innovation Group and head of their Adastral Park Research Centre. Tim set out how the fixed and the mobile world have been evolving on separate paths, but that those paths were gradually converging and in particular the need for a massive increase in cells could best be met with WiFi-like deployments indoors utilising ever faster fixed broadband connectivity. He did provide some hope for the future employment of Cambridge’s wireless experts in pointing out that the techniques currently being used to enable higher speed transmission over fibre and copper cables were fundamentally the same as those used for wireless transmission.
As always with the Prestige Lectures the discussion and debate period was where some of the most insightful issues were raised and discussed. Interestingly, much of the debate focused on regulation, the benefits and problems associated with monopoly providers, whether the very different competitive model in the fixed and broadband world was an impediment or spur to convergence and issues around openness and ubiquitous access. Despite 40 years of mobile evolution and over 100 years of fixed line deployment we concluded that the future was more unpredictable now than perhaps at any point in our memory, with key question marks around the cost of new techniques, the willingness of consumers to pay and whether the data demand really will continue to grow exponentially. It was a conversation where economics, social policy and regulation played just as much of a role as technology and research.
I found it real food for thought and I’m mulling over some very critical questions that Ofcom and others will face in the coming years as well as re-thinking my previous held views about 5G. Playing on Tim’s title, I’d say “The future of mobile is far from fixed (yet)”.
If you weren’t able to attend, you can view Dr Tim Whitley’s presentation here: CW Prestigious Lecture Series, 21st October 2014.
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