Mobile Mesh Networks: now we're talking...

Swedish firm TerraNet is trialling a mobile mesh network, we read. In a mesh network, each handset works like a little base station, too. It is a peer-to-peer technology without the need for a base station and, hence without a network operator or carrier. TerraNet's devices currently have 1km range, i.e. unless there is another device within a range of 1km, it will not work.

However, should this technology become robust and sufficiently scaled, the new Vodafones and Verizons would probably be Ericsson and Nokia Siemens Networks, i.e. the big network vendors. Incidentally, Ericsson is said to have invested $3m in TerraNet. At present, a maximum of 7 hops can be done, and this would be limiting the distance that can be covered. However, the company apparently also offers a network node via a USB dongle and this could then connect to a VoIP system to bridge long-distance and go into another mesh network closer to the recipient.

Would this technology be available on a larger scale (and perhaps ultimately without the constraints of so many hops), this would then result in lower cost for users because there would be one less mouth to be fed in the value chain, and it so happens that this is the hungriest mouth at present. Terranet is said to be recognizing that the telcos won't be delighted about this (multi-media evangelists like Nokia's Anssi Vanjoki will however be uber-excited as it will boost multimedia offerings and the opportunities over there). Oh, dreaming of the future...

At present, the offering is geared to scarcely populated areas (the company runs trials in Tanzania and Ecuador), and the above-described problems might not be an issue there. In the contrary, it could be that operators would embrace the technology to expand coverage. The company also targets urban areas where people make lots of local calls, which would then be virtually free.

In those more urban areas, there may be problems with having enough available frequencies, and the struggle with the regulators in the space might indeed slow the deployment down significantly. This would probably be made even harder due to the political concerns of many countries when it comes to weakening some of their economic powerhouses (because this is what carriers also are).

Other commentators are also concerned with battery life but also note that, if the phones are replacing landlines, they can be left plugged into a power source (which would be defeating the purpose of the notion of being mobile though, I guess). Surely this would be solvable though.

Very interesting indeed, I think!

Sony Ericsson to leverage PSP and Bravia brands?

According to the FT, Sony Ericsson ponders the release of PSP and Bravia (its TV moniker) branded high-end mobile phones, quoting SE's president, Miles Flint. The Bravia-phone is - I was surprised to learn - already a reality, namely as a mobile TV phone with DoCoMo in Japan. Regarding a PSP phone, Flint was cautious, saying that the technology was still some way from being perfected. “We need to make sure that it is a credible phone, and be sure we are justified in putting that identity on it,” he was quoted.

This approach would continue SE's strategy to leverage Sony consumer electronics brands in its phone business, which it has done with the ubiquitous Walkman (now turned video player) and its digital camera brand, Cybershot. This strategy has apparently helped to double its margins - in addition to moving up one spot from #5 to #4 in the leading manufacturers' list.

It seems eminently sensible to try and build on Sony's considerable fame in consumer electronics, in particular as Nokia (most recently with its high-powered and feature-packed N95) and new entrant Apple seem to be pushing the edge of the envelope, and LG adding on the design front (the Prada phone and the LG Shine spring to mind). SE's approach of weaving the trust it enjoys from consumers for its electronic devices into the mobile phone branding may well be suitable to counter this race. However, as was also noted, Mr Flint did not forget to point out the most important thing: “We need to make sure that it is a credible phone, and be sure we are justified in putting that identity on it." There you go!

The statements probably come on the back of reports during the last weeks (e.g. here and here) that SE was to release a games phone with a games-oriented user interface and styling, and comprising - geek excitement levels rising through the roof - things like motion-sensitivity, which will pave the way for Wii-like gameplay on a handset (be aware of flying handsets on your commute then).