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Mobile World Congress: A Preview for Cable Folks

2/14/2011 9:05 AM

This is the week of Mobile World Congress, the big wireless trade show happening in Barcelona.

What should a cable person care about in the acronym soup that is mobile broadband? Let’s start with WAC (rhymes with “jack,” and yes, there is a JIL), which stands for the Wholesale Apps Community.

It’s an effort by mobile carriers all over the world (Rogers Communications, Verizon and AT&T are members) to create an applications storefront, with APIs (application- program interfaces) that let developers tap into parts of the core network.

Translation: It’s a way to attract apps developers for the billions of smartphones served by cellular carriers around the world.

Or, as a wireless pal put it: “It’s not about altruism. It’s about having a role to play other than just a pure bit pipe.”

Because cable operators face the same concern - not wanting to be a dumb pipe - WAC’s worth watching.

(About “JIL” - it stands for Joint Innovation Lab, and is now part of WAC. So is Bondi, OneAPI, and several other open API efforts that were fragmented API “clubs,” prior to WAC.)

Also big at this year’s event: NFC, for Near Field Communications. Boiled way down, it’s tiny little chips that do very short-haul communications. “Short” as in a few inches - like when you press a credit card against the card reader in a New York taxi cab, instead of swiping it, or when you use an access card to get into a parking garage or building.

NFC isn’t expected to be mainstream until at least 2012, but if it takes off, it means we’ll be able to hold up our phones to a reader to pay for stuff.

The big “if” in NFC: Whether banks, credit cards, carriers and manufacturers can surpass years of mutual distrust on the subject.

Keep an eye on WAC. Not just because it’s fun to say - that is just WAC - but because cellular carriers face the same “dumb pipe” fears as cable. And WAC is their way out. Why? Show me a developer not interested in a base market of several billion units.
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