Cost clawback to drive 3G

Even as we implement 2.5G networks here in New Zealand, 3G is rearing its ugly head. And what a beast it is - the Brits scored billions of pounds for their spectrum while we only got $133 million for ours.

Even as we implement 2.5G networks here in New Zealand, 3G is rearing its ugly head. And what a beast it is — the Brits scored billions of pounds for their spectrum while we only got $133 million for ours. The French only have two bidders and may have to start again, the Brazilians are putting theirs off till later and the Aussies are just about to start.

We can sit back smug in the knowledge that we’re ahead of the pack and as a nation with cheap spectrum the telcos can get stuck in and beat everyone to the punch with an operational 3G network, right? Perhaps not.

Lars Svensson, Ericsson’s enterprise business chief, told me that the countries that would move first into 3G are those that have to — namely those that paid the most. Britain and Japan could us all to the punch and launch 3G networks while we still come to grips with 2.5G.

Ericsson is really keen on the whole 3G environment — not surprisingly. It's one of the companies that will be laying down the actual networks that run these systems and stands to make a lot of money from the push towards higher bandwidth cellular connections. And it’s not just us first world nations either — some less-developed countries are making the leap to cellular without even bothering with a land line network at all. India and China are both huge landmasses with an increasing demand for telecommunications but without the quality of service or even the coverage a terrestrial network provides. They are moving to cellular and to high-speed connections as quickly as they can.

Now I read that Alcatel is saying we won’t see 3G handsets until 2004 which is, quite frankly, yonks away, so it’ll be 2.5G for us for a while yet. Ericsson, and I’m sure the other manufacturers as well, are already working on 4G, which should be about 10 years away. Does this remind anyone else of the never-ending PC upgrade cycle? At least cellphones aren’t beige.

Two other unrelated things I’ve found online recently may be of interest.

The first is the coolest website button I’ve seen in a long time and for me it echoes a comment from my favourite TV show Pinky and the Brain. The button was at the end of an article on scramjet engines — capable of flying at around Mach 7 or 8. Cool, thought I. Wonder if I can find some technical detail about it. And lo, there was this button marked “Search Internet for Related Information”. Yes, a twist to the idea of searching and such a clear-cut, logical extension of the existing service. So simple it’s brilliant. And it’s Google-powered, so it works. It reminded me of a conversation between Pinky and the Brain at a world trade fair in the 1930s:

Pinky: “Look Brain, television. They say one day every home will have one!”

Brain: “Don’t be ridiculous, Pinky. Who wants a radio in their home that watches them all the time?”

That’s exactly how most people out there seem to view the internet. Not only are we still developing the technology but also the model for its use. Looking back it may be obvious which way things would go but looking forward is a tricky business.

The second internet event I must tell you about was quite disturbing. I subscribed to a magazine a few months ago with my learning budget (a great idea — I highly recommend it to every employer) and have been happily receiving it on a weekly basis ever since. However, while I was searching online for one of my stories (all right, I was ego surfing) I found a strange link. I followed it, like Alice down the hole, and there for all the world to see were my home address, email address, phone number, name and occupation — nicely laid out for any spammer to take. And not only mine — the text file was 2400KB in size. Every New Zealander, Australian or South East Asian subscriber was listed, as far as I could tell. It’s quite a collection of names.

I immediately emailed the paper involved and pointed it out to them. They’re based in Europe and I thought it might take a couple of days to get a reply. But the very next morning there was an email apologising and listing the steps taken to remove the page from all the major search engines. Brickbats for an appalling gaff but bouquets for the speedy and thorough recovery. None of the information is exactly a state secret — it’s all available through the IDGNet site or the White Pages, but that’s not really the point, is it? I should be grateful, I suppose, that my credit card number wasn’t there.

Brislen is a Computerworld journalist. Send email to Paul Brislen. Send letters for publication to Computerworld Letters.

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