3G's Back -- And This Time They Mean It
By Mike Masnick, Tue Jun 15 19:15:00 GMT 2004

It's been nearly five years since we were told that we were entering "the year of 3G," but now that 3G launches are commonplace, the pundits are feeling comfortable again hyping 3G.

There's a hype cycle that seems to follow wireless technologies. First, a new wireless technology comes along. The industry quickly hypes up its absolute best-case scenario, and the press jumps all over what a wonderful wireless world we'll be living in. Then, reality sets in as the technology or standard is half-baked and doesn't live up to the hype at all. This is quickly followed by the same reporters trashing the technology for failing to live up to the hype that they helped promote. Somewhere during this process a reporter or an analyst will ask: "Is wireless technology ABC dead?" In the wireless world, this seems to be a signal that the technology is really set to take off -- without as much press scrutiny, until they rediscover the technology they had written off and declare it returned from the grave.

It's happened with both WAP and Bluetooth. Both failed to live up to their initial hype within a fairly short period of time, and were quickly declared dead on arrival. Both, however, bounced back and are in widespread use today.

So, is it any surprise that it was less than a year ago that we were being told that 3G might be dead as well? It didn't take long for that story to be turned around. Business Week is making it clear that 3G is here for real this time (as opposed to every other time we've been told it's for real) now that telecom "giants" Vodafone, T-Mobile and Orange are rolling out service. Across the globe, at the same time, we're being told that 3G is going to be big in China.

If you look at the overall rollouts of the technology, though, they tend to follow an expected pattern. Early adopters jump on board, but there are problems, and some of the technology doesn't work as well as expected. However, after a few blips, companies begin to figure out how to make the technology work right, while doing a much better job positioning the offering to customers as well. The end result is that the technology begins to catch on in an orderly fashion when people are ready for it. One of these days, perhaps the industry itself and the press that follows it will expect these blips, and not extrapolate out too far.