Access to the NII will either be by wire (telephone, cable TV, etc.) or wireless. The wireless case for millions of users is the focus of this paper.
Wired data access to the NII and predecessors with capabilities adequate for certain applications and with distinct evolutionary paths or alternatives exists today. But wired data access has a fundamental limitation. It is not always where the users are, and it does not travel easily with the users. One has to "plug into another jack" whenever one moves. The wire is a tether. Thus, wireless data access can prove a boon to those users who want and need information access wherever they are. The ability to operate on a tetherless basis generates new power to use information for almost everyone. (Those who have experienced a good, tetherless computing or data access situation can testify to this.)
But wireless data access capability to interchange information with and through the network on a tetherless basis is limited and expensive today. To date, new wideband tetherless access approaches for data appear to be "vaporware"many have tried and none have succeeded. There are fundamental technology limitations in wireless multiple access that have led to economic limitations of these dreams.
Characterizing a market in which one introduces a product of at least two orders of magnitude more capability than currently exists is difficult at best. The following discussion forms a probable baseline that would be the lower bound for the market addressed by Spread ALOHA architecture.
The addressed market for nomadic, tetherless computer networking employing Spread ALOHA architecture consists of a large fraction of the users of portable computing devices, such as portable PCs and PDAs. The reality is, however, that with the introduction of a breakthrough technology such as Spread ALOHA, a new emphasis on new devices and applications comes into play, which tends to stimulate and transform the market. ALOHA Networks expects that the PC/PDA market will be only the base for the nomadic, tetherless computing network market. New applications using a PCMCIA card (beyond PC and PDA applications) and embedded Spread ALOHA wireless technology will develop as well.
Even recent forecasts for growth of the mobile data market can now be revised upward:
The mobile data market in the United States will increase from 500,000users in 1994 to 9.9 millionusers in 2000with a compound annual growth of 64 percent, according toa new report from BISStrategic Decisions.… The "mobile professional"sectorprofessional employees who spend 20percent or more of their time away from their desksrepresent apotential user population of 31.9million by 2000.…1
The rebirth of the PDA market will hinge on re-positioning the devices ascommunications-oriented PCcompanions.… BIS predicts protable PC users will increasinglycommunicate using mobile dataservices. We forecast that 2.8 percent of portable PCs that arewirelessly-enabled (300,000 units in1994) will grow to 16 percent of the installed base, or 2.6 million units, in1998. The increased usage ofmobile data will be a direct result of improvements in availability,functionality, and pricing for services.We also expect that the mobile data market will grow at a compound rate of 80percent through 1998.Although at most 12 percent of PDAs are currently wirelessly enabled, thatpercentage will grow to 75percent by 1998 [1.7 million units from authors' graph]. The current lowpercentage rate reflects thedearth of low-cost mobile data alternatives. Once users have more costeffective options to choose from,the number of wirelessly-enabled PDAs will climb.2
From the above forecast made without knowledge of the breakthrough Spread ALOHA technology, it can be assumed that the market for user units (as opposed to infrastructure) will likely be about 4.3 million units in 1998 and will approach 10 million units by 2000.