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Consulting Group Releases Top 10 Predictions For The Wireless Industry

VeriSign subsidiary inCode sees HSDPA, open access, and iPhone security among its top 10 wireless trends for 2008.

InCode, a subsidiary of VeriSign that specializes in wireless business and technology consulting, on Wednesday released its top 10 predictions for major trends in the wireless industry next year.

The predictions are meant to help technology vendors and consumers better plan for the coming year, said inCode.

They are as follows:

1. High-speed downlink packet access (HSDPA), a third-generation cellular phone technology, will flourish. It's a mature technology with over 10 million users globally and with an increasing number of devices supporting it, according to inCode. HSDPA won't compete with fourth-generation technologies like long term evolution (LTE) and WiMax since they're in a different stage of maturity. WiMax is about two years away for commercial deployment and LTE is about four years away.

U.S. carrier Verizon last month disclosed plans to roll out LTE for its 4G network, while also adopting a common access platform with Vodafone to provide services worldwide based on the technology. Nearly 24 million subscribers worldwide will be using services based on LTE by 2012, according to Juniper Research.

2. The upcoming 700-MHz spectrum auction in the U.S. will provide an opportunity for a new wholesale carrier that will not sell services directly to consumers. This model will be driven by Google and similar companies, and will employ technology such as software-based radios, Wi-Fi, and femtocells.

According to filings made with the Federal Communications Commission this week, 266 applicants will participate in the auction. They include AT&T, Cablevision, Google, MetroPCS Wireless, Qualcomm, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless. Google is among the most promising, since its approach would allow different software and hardware providers to use the spectrum to offer inexpensive products and services to consumers.

3. Open access and competition among chipmakers will drive device makers to bypass carriers. Open access will give birth to new services, but on the downside, subsidies that carriers currently provide on devices will be eliminated. There will likely be advertising-supported subsidies, meaning that instead of carrier contracts, consumers will have to agree to receive ads in order to get low-cost or free phones.

4. With a move to Internet Protocol-based networks and open access, there will be an opportunity for real quality of service distinctions for carriers. On the low end, consumers will be able to bring their own devices to a carrier's network without receiving subsidies or the kind of support they currently expect by subscribing to carrier's services. On the high end, consumers can get high reliability, priority access, and quality of service guarantees on applications like voice over IP. Customers will self-select service based on their preferences, including the performance and the price they want.

Verizon Wireless last month shocked the U.S. wireless industry, announcing that starting next year it will open up its nationwide network to mobile devices, software, and applications not offered by the carrier. The carrier said it will have two categories of customers: full-service customers -- those who purchase devices and services from Verizon and receive technical support, and bring-your-own customers -- those who bring their own devices to the carrier's network without full service.

5. Wireless broadband will continue to be the fastest-growing service. HSDPA will dominate until LTE goes commercial, and it will be embedded in laptops for wireless connectivity. Meanwhile, WiMax will be embedded in some consumer devices. As a result, the laptop market will get a boost because consumers will want to buy laptops that are better connected.

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