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Communications Middlemen: The Next Victims

February 25, 2000

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By the end of this year, every wireless phone manufactured by Motorola will be able to access the Internet. Motorola of Schaumburg, IL, the second-largest manufacturer of mobile phones in the world (after Nokia of Finland), made this pronouncement last week.
At about the same time, Irwin Jacobs, founder and CEO of Qualcomm, Inc., told reporters that in a mere five years, wireless phones will replace hard-wired phones in most homes. "More and more we are going to see a situation where a wire telephone hooked to a wall will become an object of some surprise," Jacobs said.
So the wireless industry, growing like a mad mushroom, is embracing the Internet even as the public is embracing wireless phones. Clearly, another wave of the future is about to wash over us all.
What will it mean for trucking?
Obviously, drivers will be able to use the same mobile phone to both talk with and e-mail the family back home, and if pricing trends continue it will cost them less.
But there are serious business implications also.
The same mobile phones can put drivers in touch with dispatch, too. Internet connectivity means they will be able to send and receive data, messages of all kinds, including the sort of information that now passes from on-board computers and custom built hand-held devices over proprietary satellite and cellular systems. Only well financed carriers can afford those systems. Almost anyone can afford Internet-ready cell phones and the off-the-shelf trucking software that will surely become available to use with them.
Direct Internet access for drivers and cheap software will allow drivers and dispatch to communicate directly, without passing through a third-party service center. Almost all trucking communications vendors now operate service centers that move messages between trucks and offices. Some use the Internet between the service center and the trucking office. When drivers have direct Internet access, those service centers will no longer be essential.
Yes, Qualcomm operates just such a service center; in fact, they invented the model. But don't worry about the folks from San Diego. According to Jacobs, Qualcomm is now working on products that place it in the vanguard of advancing mobile Internet technology. No matter which way the coming wave breaks, Qualcomm will remain a major player in trucking communications.

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