Pascal Debon can be tough to reach, and not just because he’s constantly trotting the globe as president of Nortel Networks’ wireless business. On this particular day, Debon is in Paris, where he has to switch from his cell phone to a wireline phone because the wireless call keeps fading out.
In a way, that fade is music to Debon’s ears. With wireless market penetration in Europe approaching 100% in some areas, infrastructures are straining to keep up with growing volumes of voice calls. That problem could spell a lot of revenue for suppliers like Nortel because carriers may have to deploy 3G gear sooner rather than later just to handle voice traffic.
What’s the business case for 3G?
At the beginning, it’s all about voice capacity. Just try to make a phone call in London or Paris. You see the difficulty I had in speaking to you. All the networks are completely full in the main European towns. There’s a strong short-term business case just to increase capacity.
What about data services?
Data will arrive in wireless like it did in wireline. It’s going to be a major trend — no question about that. The issue that we have as an industry is to see how we’ll be able to make money with data.
How will consolidation affect wireless data’s business case and market potential?
In the U.S., there will be consolidation. On the carrier side and the vendor side, we need to go through consolidation because we absolutely need to drive down the cost per bit to be able to establish a strong business case for wireless Internet. The data business case needs to have a drastic cost reduction to be established in the market. We’ll get that only through consolidation.
Will wireless LANs complement or compete with 3G mobile wireless?
They are absolutely complementary. It will be one factor to lower the data cost.
A few operators have launched commercial 3G networks, but they’ve suffered from service glitches. Are the problems a sign of poor interoperability testing or of 3G’s complexity?
You need a complete understanding of the end-to-end service, which includes access and the core IP network. 3G isn’t just about broadband wireless — it’s about packet networks. That’s something new for a lot of wireless vendors.