One of the most controversial comments to come out of last week’s Mobile Asia Congress was Masayoshi Son’s belief that future mobile networks won’t be up to the job of solely handling tomorrow’s data-intensive devices and applications. To summarise, the CEO of SoftBank – Japan’s number three mobile operator – said it will be necessary to rely on WiFi technology to take the strain off its HSPA and LTE networks, especially in homes.

Of course, fears over capacity constraints are nothing new, and a reason why femtocells are being heavily hyped. After years of promise, devices such as the iPhone have finally given users a reason to access rich data services whilst on the move. This has created such a boom in data use that some operators have struggled to cope. O2 UK, which recently admitted its network has not always been up to the task of supporting its portfolio of smartphones, was moved to last week announce new network investment of “hundreds of millions” of pounds. Meanwhile in the US AT&T has been heavily criticised for the level of service it provides and is upgrading its network.

What is new is SoftBank’s approach to seeing mobile and WiFi technologies as complementary and fundamental to the operator’s future business model. And the fact that LTE could need the support of some wireless local area networking friends on its path to next-gen mobile technology dominance.

Justin Springham, Managing Editor