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Making Broadband Wireless Services: An Actor-Network Study of the US Wireless Industry Standard Adoption

David Tilson
Case Western Reserve University, USA
Kalle Lyytinen
Case Western Reserve University, USA

We adopt actor-network theory to examine how technical and human actors interact to reach agreement on the creation and adoption of wireless services and standards. We present a model in which actors formulate standardization strategies based on their perceptions of existing and future actor-network configurations in light of their interests. The model is used to explore changes in the US wireless industry in the midst of its transition to the third generation (3G) technologies. We interview top executives from key players in the US wireless industry and analyze a major US wireless network operator’s standardization strategy using the model. The new technical potential offered by 3G has instigated a transformation of the industry’s actor-network and stimulated renewed interest in standards setting and adoption. Operators have been among the most influential actors in initiating and enabling this transformation even though the technical potential has largely been brought to light and standardized by others. New relationships need to be established with, and among, diverse industry actors through specific standards exploitation plans. As a result new technological interfaces and inter-organizational arrangements are being forged to exploit the emerging technological potential. These strategies are, for the moment, ambiguous and open due to the uncertain nature of standards creation and adoption choices as well as rapid change in the market place (including the impact of ongoing mergers).

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Reference:Tilson, D., Lyytinen, K. (2005). "Making Broadband Wireless Services: An Actor-Network Study of the US Wireless Industry Standard Adoption," Case Western Reserve University, USA . Sprouts: Working Papers on Information Systems, 5(21). http://sprouts.aisnet.org/5-21
Keywords:Standards, Actor-Network Theory, Wireless Industry, 3G Transition
Item Type:Article - Volume 5 Article 21 (2005)
Email: Kalle Lyytinen (kalle@case.edu)

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