demand for wireless is strong and getting stronger. CDPD will be available in 90 percent of the cellular market by 1996. As a result, supply will create its own demand as more and more services become available. When that happens it will be cheaper - for the equipment, service and customer."
PCS: THE WIRELESS GORILLA?
One wireless service sure to play a major role in mobile data communication is personal communications services (PCS). The big question is when.
Right now, PCS is not a service but a frequency allocation recently auctioned off by the Federal Communications Commission in a major reallocation of spectrum for the emerging personal wireless voice and data communications market.
PCS has two major categories: narrowband, which covers two-way paging, and broadband, which covers a much wider band of spectrum and will be used for a variety of wireless voice and data services.
PCS will bring lots of new capacity to today's cellular market. It could deliver as much as 10Mbits per second, making it nearly compatible for handling LAN traffic. PCS also will bring a half-dozen new competitors to the cellular market. They are expected to offer digital versus today's analog cellular service. Digital systems are considered more cost-effective than analog and offer much better integration of voice and data.
As a result of the auctions, PCS has taken its first step toward reality. "The thousand-pound gorilla in the wireless market is going to be PCS," said James Kobielus. "The new players will probably be offering voice and data services somewhere in the 1996-1997 timeframe."
Peter Rysavy and others think it will be longer before PCS is deployed. "Right now, people have only the licenses. They can't use the spectrum now, because there are people already using it." The PCS spectrum is currently used by a number of utilities and local governments, who must be compensated by the new license owners to relocate. "It's a complex situation," said Rysavy, "and it's going to take time to happen."
It's also going to cost the new players a lot of money. They have to pay for the licenses, the relocation of current spectrum users, and the infrastructure for the new services. "It's going to cost tens of billions of dollars to deploy," remarked Rysavy.
For those reasons, Ira Brodsky believes that the new PCS service providers will focus on providing voice, not data, services first. "They are going to be under tremendous pressure to make money quickly," he said. "The way to do that is to compete with the cellular voice services." Brodsky believes the wireless industry is at least five years away from providing wireless data applications via PCS.