Howard Rheingold covered the text messaging phenomenon that was occurring abroad in "Smart Mobs" six years ago. It is a fantastic book that takes a close look at many technologies. As I reflect on it, Mr. Rheingold really hit the mark on wireless. Smart Mobs laid the foundation for what is happening now and the explosion of social-mobile technologies.
On that note, in a recent report by eMarketer, they forecast that "mobile social networking will grow from 82 million users in 2007 to over 800 million subs worldwide by 2012." As they noted, this creates significant challenges and opportunities for carriers.
As we know, carriers are counting on data to drive ARPU’s higher as voice revenue continues to decline. Data growth will be fueled by users constantly interacting in their social networks. This will have other downstream benefits beyond just accessing the social network.
For instance, let’s say I want to let my "followers" on Twitter know I am shooting mobile video. I can enable my qik channel to send a "tweet" to my social network once I began shooting video. Accordingly, any follower on twitter can click a link and watch my live mobile broadcast while I’m streaming over the cellular network (or Wi-Fi hotspot).
I see a technical challenge for carriers on the horizon. In order for these applications to thrive, carriers must have the adequate capacity to deliver these bandwidth intensive applications. Accordingly, the FCC and policymakers must make sure that spectrum is available and the regulatory environment is favorable for deploying next generation networks.
Facebook, MySpace and Qik did not exist when Mr. Rheingold wrote his book. However, he was one of the few who studied how "generation txt" was participating and foresaw what the next wireless revolution would look like.