News

Mobile World Congress: A Preview for Cable Folks

2/14/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

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.


Stumped by gibberish? Visit Leslie Ellis at
translation-please.com or multichannel.com/blog.
March