The Power Question

9:20 AM -- I am at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this week. I really enjoy this event, except that it does you more than you do it. It’s so big that it is now impossible to see everything. Logistics are a nightmare. My blisters have blisters.

But CES is the new COMDEX, and given the overlap between consumer and business IT products, this is the place to be. They have everything from intricate electronic and mechanical parts to the latest in subscriber units to an astonishing array of custom cases to put the latter in.

I chaired a session on said subscriber units, and I’m pleased to report that most of the panelists agreed with my forecast that half (yes, 50 percent) of all handsets will be equipped with WiFi by 2011. OK, this might be a bit aggressive, but WiFi is essential for broadband data since there will never be enough capacity to meet the demand on licensed spectrum.

But this forecast is dependent upon the utilization of the 5GHz. band. I had a really interesting chat with a senior manager at Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (Nasdaq: MRVL) and he said that 5GHz. wouldn’t get used much in handsets because of the higher power consumption (relative to 2.4GHz.) involved. This is, of course, simple physics -- higher clock rates eat more battery. That’s a fact.

But I think the greater capacity of 5GHz. means more useful capacity, and thus fewer retries due to interference, and much better voice quality. 2.4 is going to get very, very crowded, and the g/b and n/g protection mechanisms won’t help. And I still think we have a ways to go in both battery and power-management technology. We’ll thus see 5GHz. as a core element in future handsets. That’s my forecast, anyway.

— Craig Mathias is Principal Analyst at the Farpoint Group , an advisory firm specializing in wireless communications and mobile computing. Special to Unstrung

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