R&D Spotlight: Wireless Carriers Will Make Your Sci-Fi Dreams Come True

The wireless of the future will not be limited by speed bumps and dense traffic. Video will come to devices without lulls, and petty service provider problems will be left in the past. The world of wireless utopia may not have enough to remove all constraints of time and space, but it will come close if Verizon’s (NYSE:VZ) vision of the future, being nurtured at its LTE Innovation Center, comes true.

Scenarios in which houses are monitored by seamless video streams or car rear cameras that instantly take pictures of the vehicle bumping and send them to the car’s owner just don’t happen because, unlike in fiction, real life has bandwidth limitations.

But the aforementioned are only two of the experiments being conducted at the Verizon center in Waltham, Massachusetts, by innovators using capabilities of the 4G LTE network. The idea is that LTE, which is up to 10 times faster than 3G, can drop the ailments that pulled the latter back.

Verizon and fellow service providers, including AT&T (NYSE:T), want to quickly figure out how to use these capabilities for maximum profit. “They really want to find out how to get revenue not just from consumers using networks, but from businesses,” Rutgers research professor Janne Lindqvist told Technology Review. “I don’t find it surprising that even though they have congestion problems now, they are trying to find different ways to get more subscribers.”

The congestion problem Lindqvist discusses is what has slowed 3G down in direct proportion to its popularity. With a growing number of smartphones and more and consumers straining available bandwidth, carriers often limit speeds. AT&T slows data transfers after users hit a three-gigabyte monthly threshold and Verizon does it in the case of network congestion.

However, the LTE network is still new and largely unused, inspiring Verizon to use this time to come up with innovative uses for it.

The innovation center helps potential partners develop their business model and offers engineers the infrastructure and support to test out new products that use LTE. Labs shield from stray wireless signals and devices that are being tested don’t even need to be on a broadband plan.

“The vision is that there is going to be an LTE pipe providing a combination of infotainment, security services, surveillance, and home control that you can access from anywhere,” center director Praveen Atreya told Technology Review.

An approved idea is of an interactive jukebox that streams songs and videos using wireless. Experiments include a video camera on a car’s rear license plate that records streaming video when the car is bumped and the user receives a message and an image on his phone. Home security monitoring is another application under consideration.

Don’t complain that 3G speeds don’t let you watch video clips, wireless carriers have clearly already moved on.

To contact the reporter on this story: Aabha Rathee at staff.writers@wallstcheatsheet.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Damien Hoffman at editors@wallstcheatsheet.com