Backward Compatibility Seems Lacking In AT&T Wireless 3G Rollout

While overall kudos are in order for ATTWS’ early launch of UMTS 3G networks in four cities yesterday, the linked article uncovers a couple of problems with the service. The first is trivial, and it is where ATTWS CTO Rod Nelson says that UMTS holds up to EV-DO. On a actual bandwidth meter, this just isn’t true, but I agree with his statement that in practical terms, either network (performing to specs) would satisfy mobile Internet users in most cases. However, the more problematic aspect I see in the ATTWS service is that their current terminal equipment has terrible backward compatibility. Despite the fact that AWE has already invested in a nationwide EDGE rollout, the 3G handsets will not fall back to EDGE when out of 3G coverage (i.e. in 99.98% of the network), but will instead fall back on the pitiful data speed of GPRS. The 3G PCMCIA data card is not backward compatible with any other technology, which means it will have very limited geographic coverage. So, even if we concede that either UMTS or EV-DO would satisfy a data-hungry customer, the fact that Verizon Wireless’ terminal equipment will fall back to the satisfactory 1xRTT, and offer that speed on a wide national footprint when out of 3G coverage, makes the AWE offering seem a little anemic in comparison. Why AWE failed to offer EDGE/UMTS handsets, we’d like to know… Addendum: To see how much of a no-brainer a backward-compatible device would be, read this WirelessWeek article regarding using “islands of UMTS” within a sea of EDGE.

Filed Under:

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...