Avoiding the Broadcast Standards Wars
With the arrival of the latest Star Wars saga, I am reminded of something that occurred not too long ago in a technology galaxy not so far, far away.
Most in the broadcast industry may not be aware of the “Cell Wars” of the 2000’s, where telecom vendors and mobile operators backed multiple standards and quasi-standards. During those wars, the mobile industry suffered from an acronyms list as long as your arm – with names like TDMA, IS-95, iDEN, CDMA, EV-DO, WiMAX, and PCS. In nearly all cases, these had a basis in some standards – but with a specific twist or variant that favored a particular supplier, their products, and their bottom line.
The Cell Wars did not bring us Ewoks or anything as cute or entertaining. For suppliers, the Cell Wars were marked by a decade of infighting, market turmoil, and product delays. Phone and network suppliers were churning out multiple variants of network and handset equipment, hedging their bets on which one would ultimately win.
Mobile operators, who needed to invest billions into their networks, went into shock – like getting grazed by a blaster. Reluctant to spend on equipment that could eventually become stranded and outmoded, they slowed their CapEx spending for a long period and took a cautious approach to investing. This had a detrimental effect on suppliers, impacting their R&D spend and ultimately slowing the introduction of mobile innovations. There were times it seemed like the force of too many competing variants from the standards would cause the mobile world to collapse or explode – like our own Alderaan catastrophe brought about by selfish interests.
Above all, there was massive customer confusion. Should I buy this phone or that phone? Why does my phone not work between providers? Why do I have to buy a new phone when I switch providers? Why can’t I travel internationally and use my phone? Why can’t these companies get their act together?
The end result was a painful time for all, and a lot of money and time was wasted before mobile suppliers and operators came to their collective senses to rally around the actual standards and frameworks that were established by the standards bodies. It has been far from easy getting there, but the ultimate outcome of the alliance of suppliers, operators, and standards bodies was that we now have more mobile subscriptions than we have humans – and we all enjoy the benefits of these efforts every time we pick up a mobile device.
Do you see the parallels to our broadcast and media industry? Do we really want the “Broadcast Wars” to happen here? Do we want our customers saying: “Why do I have to stay with this one vendor for my baseband router? Why can’t I buy best-of-breed? Why don’t these supplier systems interoperate properly? Why has this become my problem, and why did the suppliers not think of me first – their customer?”
In December, Imagine Communications took a firm stand and founded an alliance with other marquee suppliers, backing the same principles of open standards. This is not the “Rebel Alliance,” but the Alliance for IP Media Solutions, or AIMS. Our objective is simple, straightforward – and above all – fair to our customers. Imagine has always supported open standards, and we support the standards for IP solutions based on the 74-member VSF’s TR-03 and TR-04 recommendations, as well as SMPTE 2022-6 and AES67 for audio. Please read our press release and visit the Alliance website to review what we are supporting.
Imagine wants to continue to help keep this industry healthy, robust, and filled with the force of creativity. Nobody wants to dig-in on an icy planet for the next 10 years and wait for it to all settle out, and we clearly don’t need a broadcast repeat of the Cell Wars.
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