Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Meet the father of portable cellular telephony!

During the conference, we are going to hear from scientific greats such as Martin Cooper who is known as “the father of portable cellular telephony.” Today’s blog entry contains Mr. Cooper’s description of how Star Trek has influenced his life and the first of three parts of his essay, Wireless Enterprise. I hope you enjoy reading this article by a true visionary who has impacted all of our lives!

Blog #4 by Martin Cooper, Executive Chairman
and Co-Founder of ArrayComm LLC

Star Trek has been a part of my life, a “must see” since the program went on the air. I can’t say that Star Trek introduced the concept of the importance of personal communications to me since the concept of the first cell phone was introduced at about the same time as the first Star Trek program. We at Motorola had been working on the technologies for years before. But the images that Star Trek provided to those of us in the real world of different implementations of the communicator, and more importantly, how people used this personal communications tool, were crucial in keeping our dream alive of making this technology available to everyone on Earth, not just the crew of the Enterprise.

Is it really a coincidence that Captain Kirk was using a flip phone in 1966 and that there are in excess of a billion people on earth that use flip phones today? I don’t think so.

Wireless Enterprise
Part I

People are inherently, naturally mobile! They don’t want to be chained to their desks and constrained to their offices and homes. Yet, the broadband connectivity that is woven into the fabric of our enterprise existence does just that. Whether we’re plugged into an RJ45 connection or logged on to a wireless LAN, we are forced to sit at our desks or to stay within two or three walls of an access point.

We can always use a cellular broadband connection like EDGE or 1XEVDO. Unfortunately, the speed on these connections is rarely better than a few hundred kilobits per second, and the cost of such connections relegates them to Blackberry and Pocket PC applications and occasional Web browsing. WiFi and cellular connections have given us a taste of REAL wireless broadband but neither one fulfils the dream of complete personal telecommunications freedom. Only ubiquitous, low-cost, untethered broadband will do that.

We’re addicted to broadband; we can’t get along without it. But we’re no better off in the way we use broadband today than the way we made voice calls 25 years ago before cellular telephony.

I know what you’re thinking. Your productivity is far greater with the combination of broadband connectivity in the office and your Blackberry or Pocket PC on the road. You really don’t need any more than that. Surely, I must be exaggerating when I talk about the need for low-cost wireless broadband ubiquity. That’s exactly what people told me thirty years ago when I talked about the need for ubiquitous wireless voice connections, and yet your lives and your behavior have been notably changed by the availability of low cost cellular service. Wireless voice is not just a step forward from landline calling. When you call someone on their cellular phone, you expect a person to answer; you’re not just calling a place. What a huge and profound difference! Cellular technology has changed the way most people conduct their business and personal lives; it has improved productivity, and enhanced their safety and convenience and made them truly mobile.

This ubiquitous capability did not happen instantly. From the introduction of commercial cellular technology in 1983, it took ten years before there were a few million subscribers in the US. It took almost twenty-three years to achieve penetration to two-thirds of our population.

Wireless connectivity today is where cellular radio technology was twenty years ago. That’s going to change and here’s how:

  • New technology will reduce the cost and increase bandwidth of ubiquitous communications by orders of magnitude.

  • Regulators will make spectrum available in which this new technology will be deployed

  • Only then will new applications arise that will change our personal and business lives.


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