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4G From Space
There’s been a lot of talk re-
cently about fast 4G cellular
networks, first with Sprint
launching its WiMax-based
mobile broadband service,
then with T-Mobile’s HSPA+
network. Verizon Wireless really threw down the gauntlet
when it flipped the switch to 4G LTE service in December,
offering speeds in excess of 15 Mbps. All of this competi-
tion is great news for mobile device users, whether they ’re
corporate travelers with laptop data cards or casual smart
phone or tablet surfers.
The Achilles heel of 4G cellular networks is access.
Thus far, carriers have only deployed the infrastructure in
select major cities. But imagine grabbing a blisteringly fast
4G LTE signal almost any where in the US. That ’s just what
Virginia-based LightSquared hopes to make possible.
Using terrestrial cellular stations supplemented with
a network of space-based communication satellites,
LightSquared plans to build a 4G LTE wireless broadband
system the likes of which the planet has never seen.
Why the Competition Should Care
Cellular carriers rely on a network of land-based towers
and repeaters to distribute their signals throughout the
country. Deploying all that physical hardware is time-
consuming and expensive, which in turn hinders 4G
footprint growth. By launching a GPS-style orbital setup,
LightSquared theoretically solves these headaches and
can conceivably roll out its system more efficiently. If all
goes according LightSquared’s design, the company will
be able to sell 4G LTE network access back to the highest
bidder, be that U.S . Cellular, T-Mobile, or another player.
In fact, LightSquared has said its objective is to operate
as a wholesale provider only, and not to sell its network
access directly to consumers.
Using satellites for high-speed
mobile data sounds like a great
plan on paper, but it’s risky—
and lobbing anything into orbit certainly isn’t cheap. The
million-dollar question is whether LightSquared can build
its space-age infrastructure without too many technical
glitches or setbacks. For example, the National Telecommu-
nications and Information Administration (NTIA) recently
placed LightSquared under increased scrutiny over fears
that its terrestrial base stations will cause interference
with GPS and emergency communications. However, as
of press time, a green light was expected from the FCC
and the company anticipates a commercial launch by the
second half of 2011.
Travel Meets Social
Does the web need another travel
service? TripTrace makes a com-
pelling argument. Founded in 2007
by entrepreneur and computerized
map expert David Hose (chairman)
and Michael Rubin (CEO), who cut his teeth helping design
the Netflix website UI, TripTrace aims to create an engaging,
interactive, and completely holistic travel experience.
Most travel sites focus primarilyon mundane detailssuch as
researching and booking hotels and flights. TripTrace can help
with these tasks too, but Hose and Rubin believe a smarter solu-
tion is to construct a travel service around an individual’s tastes
and preferences. They believe it must also be totally web-based,
havestrong integration withgeographic location, andpullininfo
from social networking sites as well as the entire Internet.
The result, though still in beta, is a service that ’s built around
a virtual bookshelf that stores digital tomes to help users research
various travel topics. These activities range from planning
trips to calculating expected budgets. Users can also manage
scrapbooks that present and store maps and places, creating a
complete record of where they’ve been and where they’d like
to go. The ultimate shape of TripTrace is yet to fully form, but
it holds promise. The interface is especially suited for tablets,
which complement the site’s book motif.
Why the Competition Should Care
TripTrace’s assertion that other popular travel services usu-
ally just handle the core functions of trip planning is true.
Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, and even newcomer TripIt are
more targeted at business travelers who simply need to know
where, when, and how to get to their destinations. TripTrace
is something else all together, offering a way to plan, store,
and share travel information in a scrapbook or album format.
TripTrace launched a Google OS web app along with an iPhone
app in December of 2010. There are no confirmed plans for an
iPad app yet, but CEO Michael Rubin admitted that he thinks
TripTrace would be great on the device.
Last year, TripTrace got into
a spat with Facebook over its
original name, Placebook. Threatened with legal action, TripTrace
dropped the Placebook moniker. Although the company avoided
legal trouble by adopting a new brand, TripTrace lost valuable
time needed to get its service up and running. The website was
officially redesigned and launched in August 2010.
We believe that the best chance for TripTrace to really catch
on—besides developing a tablet app—is for the company to pull
in data not just from social networking sites but also from other
travel services. The real beauty of this startup is that it will let
travelers store and share all their trips with others in a way that’s
engaging and elegant.
LightSquared brings 4G
TripTrace social networking
location: Reston, Va
Funding: harbinger capital
location: silicon Valley, ca
Funding: Polaris Venture Partners
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