Consumers should have a lot to see at the stands of numerous telecommunications equipment makers and service providers exhibiting at this year's Cebit trade show in Hanover, Germany. This hasn't always been the case.
The focus of equipment suppliers in past years has been on back-end equipment for network operators and big enterprises and while the services providers have concentrated mostly, if not solely, on business users, this year's show promises to offer plenty of front-end systems for consumers at home or on the move.
The most prevalent of all will be VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol) technology. It's a technology that carriers started deploying in their backbone networks years ago and one that many large enterprises have since introduced into their offices, stores and factories. But with the exception of a small group of people using Net telephony services offered by companies like Skype International, VOIP isn't reality in most homes today.
That is about to change.
"Voice is going IP," said Thomas Shepp, a spokesman for Siemens. "There's no stopping this development."
The consumer market is ripe for this technology, he said, thanks to the broad penetration of broadband Internet connections in homes and improved technology to provide reliable packet-switched voice service in real time.
Siemens will show a range of VOIP systems for end users "like you and me," Shepp said.
Deutsche Telekom, Europe's largest telecommunications service provider, plans to launch a new VOIP service at Cebit, according to Chief Executive Officer Kai-Uwe Ricke.
Another technology that will touch the daily lives of many 3G (third-generation) mobile phone users is High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) technology. This technology, an evolution of 3G systems that is being deployed in Europe and parts of Asia, will initially offer throughput rates of between 400K bps (bits per second) and 600K bps, with a peak rate of 14.4M bps.
Siemens, Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson and Lucent Technologies Inc. plan demonstrations as well as T-Mobile International, the mobile arm of Deutsche Telekom.
NTT DoCoMo., the first operator out of the blocks with 3G, plans to show some of its current development work on 4G (fourth-generation) technology. This new technology is targeting download speeds of up to 100M bps and upload speeds of up to 50M bps with low 50 millisecond latency rates. Some of the first products could be available as early as 2009.
Another big theme of telecom equipment makers and service providers will be the digital home. Siemens, Alcatel and several other vendors will show their systems for broadband wireline and wireless networked services in the home. Home servers, Wi-Fi, sensor systems and more will be on display.
For sure, the buzz in the telecom halls at Cebit has died down since the boom days of the Internet a few years ago, and maybe that isn't all that bad for consumers. Vendors and operators appear earnest about showing users technology that really works -- instead of having them page through glossy visionary brochures, as the case has been so often in the past.