Ten years ago, I tortured myself with the question: If on a dark, rural road, late at night, my car broke down, was it better to stay in the car or to start walking?
Today, of course, I'd just call for help on my cell phone. But less than 10 years ago, this wasn't an option for most people. Most of us weren't choosing hardware, mobile software or having entire conversations about our personal choice of wireless carrier.
This is a cultural milestone worth noting. Cellular technology is now so ubiquitous that we've all become "experts" with opinions and proven strategies for improving performance. An analyst recently told me she takes all her home calls standing on a few specific tiles in her foyer. I can relate. In my last apartment, I learned to eek out an additional bar of service by pressing my forehead to the bedroom window.
When I first came to work for this magazine, few people in my home life could relate to my work life--whereas now everyone can. How much more relevant, then, are these days in which the old guards of telecommunication are being threatened by faster, newer and potentially less expensive technologies? And how much more exciting for us all? Both global enterprises and each of us personally stand to gain from the advances these two sides reach in their race to win subscribers, as well as in the complementary solutions they find in working together--which seems the inevitable resolution.
WiMAX and municipal mesh networks are poised to make IP-based architectures as common as cellular service. We are on the road to a future of phones that switch seamlessly between cellular and VoIP, location-based E-911 dispatch and innumerable possibilities for automation, courtesy of WiMAX deployments. Big changes are coming to both the ways we do business and our everyday lives.
Just last week, my 75-year-old father-in-law downloaded GPS software to his PDA. Now he can listen to turn-by-turn directions instead of squinting at a map.