For all intents and purposes, the move from dial-up to broadband by the masses is complete. Sure there are still large numbers of dial up subscribers who have not made the move, but there are now more people who access the Internet via broadband than via dial-up. The remaining dial-up stragglers will either move to broadband eventually or never at all because they don’t feel a need to. The next major Internet transition will be the move to wireless broadband. Adding mobility and portability to the broadband experience is a compelling proposition. One that most subscribers will find enticing enough to join the wireless broadband movement. Service providers that can offer a true broadband experience wirelessly will gain competitive advantage. The future looks bright for companies like Clearwire, Sprint, and winners of the upcoming 700 Mhz spectrum auction.
There are implications for wireline broadband providers. A significant number of subscribers will take one of two paths with their wireless broadband future. They will either abandon their wireline only broadband provider entirely, or migrate to a broadband provider that adds a portability/mobility experience to their wireline service. Does this mean Comcast will be the next AOL? They are the leading wireline broadband carrier with millions of subscriptions and enjoying the limelight of being market leader. They enjoy many accolades from analysts, the press, and Wall Street. Sound familiar? Will they get caught in a wireless broadband transition, much the same way AOL got caught in a dial-up to broadband transition? Maybe, maybe not. If they aren’t already, they would be wise to begin executing a broadband wireless strategy. Subscribers will soon demand a robust broadband mobility/portability experience which either complements or replaces their wireline broadband service. Comcast and companies like them will not be able to rest on their wireline broadband laurels alone. Perhaps a Comcast/Clearwire alliance or merger is on the horizon. Initial impressions of Pivot wireless, the cable/Sprint joint venture, does not lend itself to a robust broadband wireless solution. Maybe Sprint and their cable partners have something up their sleeve, and will extend this partnership to Sprint’s WiMAX strategy. Whatever the eventuality, wireline broadband carriers will need a broadband wireless strategy, or they will find themselves trying to reinvent their business model mid-stride, much the same way AOL is doing today.