P2P Could Soon Mean Phone To Phone
By Eric Lin, Wed Sep 15 23:15:00 GMT 2004

Now that 2.5G and 3G phones can achieve high data speeds and ubiquitous connectivity, it's no surprise that programmers have started to develop peer to peer file sharing systems for handsets.


SK Telecom demonstrated a peer to peer (P2P) client for mobile phones on its 3G network at ITU Telecom Asia. The operator contracted two companies to develop the application, which will allow users to swap pictures, music (including ringtones) and video -- regardless of whether the content is copyrighted. "We're not thinking about that type of problem," says Lee Jou Young, one of the developers working on the application for IXO Logic. No launch date for the application has been set, so it is still possible that once the technical aspects of the P2P software are resolved, SK Telecom and the developers will look at adding in content protection.

However a P2P developer quoted in another article says that technical challenges are insignificant, especially when compared to digital rights management issues (DRM). The developer was referring to Nokia Research Center's work on a P2P client for GPRS handsets. Researchers there did a great deal of experimenting to come up with a distributed system that would work on slower, less reliable GPRS network. Currently Nokia's client is only capable of sharing pictures and text (which sounds like a distributed moblog), however future version of this client will be able to share music as well.

It is no surprise that as cellular packet data networks have become ubiquitous that P2P clients would be developed, especially since handsets are converging with cameras, music players and other media devices. What is surprising is that this development is coming from industry powerhouses, not the small developers who are respnsible for all the popular desktop P2P applications. If it continues to develop a DRM-free P2P client, SK Telecom could significantly increase data usage (and thus data charges) on its 3G network, based on the success of similar desktop applications. However Nokia has little to gain from any P2P client, especially an open one. It has recently partnered with Loudeye for music distribution on its handsets. Why then, would Nokia develop something to compete with its music download service? It is quite possible that despite the lack of specifics regarding DRM in these clients, that the industry giants are moving on P2P first to make sure that their content, and the income generated by it, are protected from file sharing.