The aim of this book is to investigate the prospects for mobile communications in the new millennium. In effect, this boils down to a key issue: Will the so-called third generation of mobile (alternatively, wireless or cellular) technology turn out to be a success or a failure? This is no minor issue since telecommunications is one of the world’s leading industries, and one that is increasingly moving from a fixed-wire to a wireless basis. Furthermore, whereas widespread fixed-wire telecommunications have historically been the preserve of developed countries, the advent of mobile telephony has made it possible for less-developed countries to improve their communications capability very substantially and speedily without the need to undertake impossibly costly investment in fixed-wire links. Thus it is China that is currently the largest market for basic mobile telephony in the world, having recently overtaken the USA.
However, there is a clear difference between the basic voice telephonydriven networks that are currently in common usage, and the datadriven networks that are gradually being introduced. No one questions that the level of demand for basic voice telephony, however transmitted, will continue to grow, but the underlying difficulty is that the explosion of demand for wireless-delivered voice telephony has already created a situation whereby networks are close to saturation point in developed markets. Hence, network operators need to introduce new, high-value-added services if they are not to see their average revenue per user (ARPU) decline as they seek out the remaining marginal customers who neither want to spend much at all on calls nor to buy expensive, unsubsidised handsets. The trouble is that the basic technology and networks developed for voice are inadequate for more sophisticated purposes, although it does have to be said that the development of the short message service (SMS) has proved to be an unprecedented and, in truth, largely unanticipated success based on existing technology.