A colleague and I wrapped up an exciting debate as to whether the wireless industry will ever open up. His case was that wireless carriers will never allow 'just any' application to flow on their networks and I argued that the wireless industry would begin to resemble the landline/broadband industry more & more over time (within the next ten to fifteen years).
As we learned from the Telecom Act of 1996, and as George Gilder has aptly put it, "separating content and conduit by force – net neutrality – unnecessarily exalts regulation and elevates bureaucrats over market forces."
Gilder further posits that, "For years the doomsayers have said telecom will contrive content-conduit plays like the cable industry, that they will thereby reap profits from broadband content and that it will be the end of civilization as we know it. They forget that content and conduit are naturally separate. If you have the best content, you want it on everyone’s conduit. If you have the best conduit, you want everyone’s content on it. There are absolutely no synergies between creating attractive and original content and building powerful and available broadband networks. By far the most profitable product in cable is not their pathetic TV content with its endless clutter of ads and spam but their open Internet service. The market will continue to push telecom and cable to provide consumers with more choice not less."
I'm of the opinion that we're beginning to see this same evolution in the wireless industry. As 3G-4G evolves overseas and we crawl in to 2.5G-3G here, flat-rate (or nearly flat-rate) data pricing is bound to really take over. So, at some point in the next years I would hope to see pervasive deployment of exciting applications for the mobile device! Will Skype manage to become an application on every wireless device?
Will carriers manage to prevent the commoditization of their service provisioning? Or, will content and media companies rule the airwaves as they do on the Internet and as it's looking they will in the world of cable television?