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The Next Big Thing: The Mobile Phone as a Video Set Top Box

PortablewifiDavid Pogue reviews portable WiFi boxes from Kyocera, Junxion and Top Global -- devices that use the PC laptop card provided by a cellular carrier like  VerizonSprint or Cingular to provide wireless service to PCs anywhere there is cellular service, at DSL speeds (400 to 700 kilobits a second).

The Kyocera box will even let you connect with an EVDO cellphone, such as the Samsung A890 or  Audiovox 8940, with a USB cable. The phone becomes a sort of Internet antenna for the router.

Executives of the new News Corporation "startup" Mobizzo, or the mobile initiatives for Viacom or Time Warner might want to make note of this development. Right now, all of the assumptions are based on mobile video only being displayed on the mobile phone itself. What happens when the phone becomes like a set-top box, and is able to "sling" video (and other multimedia content) from the cell networks to any video screen in a two hundred foot radius?

The carriers, especially Verizon, don't like this development: "Broadband access is designed for individual customers. When customers use unauthorized devices to share the service, they are in violation of their service agreements," according to Brenda Raney, a Verizon Wireless spokeswoman. Verizon had only recently changed their policy, now allowing their subscribers using the LG VX9800, Motorola RAZR V3c,  Motorola E815,  and LG VX8100 mobile phones as high-speed modems for their laptops.

History is repeating itself: When I was with @Home, our financial projections were largely based on charging $40 to $60 per computer, much as we would charge subscribers for extra set-top boxes. While MSOs lost some revenue from the shared connections in the short term, the opportunities from WiFi enabled services like VOIP, combined with superior economics (no truck rolls for adding the new services), have more than made up for the difference.

Link: David Pogue review in New York Times (registration required)

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