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CTIA wrap-up: the Internet to go

Apparently, there were two CTIAs that happened this week — the expo that I attended and the conferences that I did not. At the conferences, apparently, there was much discussion about content, but the discussions on the show floors focused more on continuing to roll out 3G networks, which is key to solving any content issues.

The wireless world doesn't need content or interactive services. There's more than anyone could ever consume on the Web and it's growing by the hour. If the carriers can figure out how to optimize delivery of it, they'll never hurt for demand. Related to this is a focus on personal content that companies are starting to tap into, with promising offerings from Motorola, Sling Media, Avvenu and others.

Indeed, with the hot infrastructure issue of the show being IMS, wireless networks aren't just becoming like the Internet; they're technically becoming part of it. Leading candidaes for "4G" services such as WiMAX and Flash-OFDM are also IP-based.

But it's not quite that simple, because wireless isn't just about the virtual world of data; it's about interfacing with the one around you — the context of the here and the now. So location-based services will likely rise to be the biggest difference between fixed and mobile Internet usage once the industry can engineer around the input and output challenges that hinder adoption of rich broadband content today. Five years ago, the "wireless Web" was a joke. Now it is wireless's future.

Incidentally, while the CTIA show organizers may have had good intentions in providing free Wi-Fi throughout the exhibit halls (or may not have given the cellular focus of the show), it was some of the worst wireless connectivity I've encountered at a conference that supported such connections. The only two times I could get online reliably were when I found Ethernet cables in the media room (where they were rare) and in the hotel (where they expensive). That's not a good way to evangelize the wireless lifestyle. I don't think I'll ever rely on Wi-Fi at a conference again.