Andrew J. Viterbi, Ph.D. invented the Viterbi Algorithm. He is President of The Viterbi Group, LLC, and is the Presidential Chair and Professor of Electrical Engineering, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA. He is a founder of wireless (specifically CDMA) powerhouse Qualcomm.
With those credentials, there’s no question Viterbi is a Smart Guy. The reason we are interested today is what he is quoted as saying in this EE Times article.
Delivering a keynote address here Wednesday (Oct. 26) at the GSPx signal processing conference, Viterbi said broadband wireless could provide a “nomadic desktop experience” for business and professional users, but that high-speed wireless connectivity is not necessary for the majority of applications that consumers are interested in. Ultimately, he said, the user base for broadband wireless would peak at “hundreds of millions,” rather than billions, of users.
One application that people have been counting on to support the need for broadband wireless is high-quality audio and video broadcast. But Viterbi expressed doubt that people would be interested enough in this capability to justify paying the additional cost.
“We are going to get broadcast, and that is going to need high speed,” he said. “But we’ve had audio broadcast for 100 years and video broadcast for 50 years, so what’s new?”
While I’m convinced WiMax (and it’s cousin WiBro) will see explosive growth, I think Viterbi is on the mark about what consumers will be willing to pay for new broadband wireless services.
Google probably has the right model: Free bandwidth (capped at some moderate speed) supported by advertising revenue. Then for a few bucks more per day or month, you’ll be able to buy a fatter wireless pipe.