The Celestial Jukebox

Rich McGinn, then CEO of Lucent, came to Haas in 1999. I remember asking him when the celestial jukebox would be possible – when one would be able to drive across America, always connected to music, and infinite music at that.
McGinn was in a good position to answer that question as CEO of one of the major wireless infrastructure providers, in particular to CDMA operators at the time. (I don’t remember what he said in response, to be honest.) But, at the time, I wasn’t thinking about satellite access versus terrestrial access or rights issues or whether the music would be downloadable or streamed. I just wanted to know when it would happen.

Fast forward 15 years.

Since then SiriusXM has come and LTE networks, which were a mere twinkle in a 3G planner’s eyes in 1999, have reached national coverage. Ericsson’s drop in topline but improvement in margin indicates that LTE in at least North America and Japan is entering the management phase. Operators are starting to think about what 5G could be. Pandora, a terrestrial streaming music service, is shipping preloaded in a lot of cars these days and competing with traditional AM/FM radio, not to mention satellite.

I recently drove from San Francisco to Squaw Valley and back for an event. This involves passing through Truckee and other non-wireless infrastructure friendly hilltops. One could see cell sites camouflaged as trees here and there. I’m on Verizon. Pandora didn’t drop once, between San Francisco and Squaw Valley and Gold Run and Truckee. Some caching magic may be involved here and there, and it should be, for that matter.

The Celestial Jukebox is here. Now to make money with it.