Wireless wars: Confusing the customer

This article illustrates perfectly everything that is wrong with wireless broadband, and in particular with cellular wireless. As Verizon rolls out the iPhone on its older and slower CDMA network, it is also taking a page from the AT&T playbook of three years ago. At that time, AT&T touted its "superfast" 3G network for the iPhone, even though it was not widely available at the time; most early iPhone users found themselves accessing AT&T's slower Edge network, which is closer in performance to Verizon's CDMA network.

So today, Verizon is touting its "superfast" LTE network for the iPhone, even though it is not widely available. And of course, all these "superfast" speeds being touted are modified with the infamous "...up to...," meaning you won't get anything like the advertised speed, because lots of other cellphone users will be trying to access the same radio on the same celltower. So if LTE offers speeds "up to" 12 megabits/second, and you and nineteen other people happen to be accessing the same radio on the same cell tower, what you really get, on average, is something like 600 kilobits/second. Not at all bad for casual data use on a cellphone, but you won't be streaming a Netflix movie over that connection. And if some is trying to stream a Netflix movie over that radio on that tower, expect your speed to be more like dial up.

The cellular voice/data wireless network is an amazing technological tour de force, and its continued expansion and availability are critical to supporting our desire for ubiquitous mobile access. You can argue about the cost, but it works amazing well. But it is not a replacement for fiber connectivity to the home and business. In some areas, particularly some rural areas that need four to six years to get fiber to most residents, cellular wireless will be an important interim option to get folks off dial up. But communities that have fiber will have an important economic development and jobs development tool that communities betting on wireless won't have.

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Conclusion is right on the button