Why 3G Wireless Isn't A Real Alternative To Wired Broadband

from the just-not-there dept

The wireless carriers can’t have it both ways. They can’t keep positioning their new mobile high speed services as being real alternatives to wired broadband, and then limit how they’re used while charging more than twice as much for it. While plenty of folks keep bringing up 3G cellular wireless as a “third pipe” to compete with DSL and cable, plenty of others are realizing it’s not really competition at all. You get a slower connection, with a ton of limitations at a much higher cost. The one benefit (and it is a good benefit) is mobility. In the article above, the head of a mobile industry assocation says he’d like to see the prices come down. They are slowly coming down a bit, but the fact is they can’t really go down all that much for one simple reason: the networks simply aren’t designed to handle that much traffic. That’s why the prices are high (it keeps a lot of people from signing up) and the limits are very, very real. The simple fact is that the carriers want to talk about this great new network, and position it as an alternative, but they can’t actually provide a level of service that fits that positioning — and won’t be able to for quite some time. So, instead of falsely positioning it as an alternative, why isn’t the focus on that one big benefit of mobility? Perhaps the media is to blame for part of this, as they see the advertised speeds and automatically compare that to DSL — but it doesn’t seem like the telcos have done much to correct that view.

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Comments on “Why 3G Wireless Isn't A Real Alternative To Wired Broadband”

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Anonymous Coward says:

You know, all the talk about “competition” to dsl /cable ends to be hype.

What’s next – If I live near a starbucks and get the $20 t-mobile hot spot, does that mean it’s competition to dsl too? What about setting up a satellite link? I mean – the telcos have to be shaking in their boots over that one right?

Any chance to point out that the telcos have competitors makes for a fluff story that makes joe citizen feel a little better. Kind of like “fuel cells”

ScaredOfTheMan says:

Its true, you only have so much bandwidth available in a spectrum and its a shared medium. Everytime someone logs on take that bandwidth and divide it in half.

I think the Carriers like to think of themselves as an alternative and want their investors (and the FCC) to do likewise, but I do not know of anyone who’s only internet connection is verizon / cingular / sprint.

Now add to this, No unathorized Voip / Video….and you have a crappy expensive service, meant only to be used to check your email and maybe surf the web….and of course to buy more ” premium services” that would usually come free on a fixed line internet connection (VoIP and Video).

Schoen says:

I think people are being a little over sensitive. Any company with a product is going to do what they can to advertise it. I don’t see were they are misrepresenting themselves by saying it is an “alternative.” It is. It might not be a great alternative for everyone, but it is just the same. I know people that having it, simply for the mobility (as previously mentioned). Do we expect a company to come out and say we have this so so service, that will meet some of the needs of some of the people. Of course not. That would be nuts. They are going to emphasize what it can do for their potential customers.
I think the real problem is with individuals getting products that they assume have certain capabilities, and then complain about when it doesn’t. It is called research. You can get information on anything online. When does personal responsibility come in to play when making a purchase? If I buy a burger I assumed came with cheese, and find out later it doesn’t, it’s not Burger King’s fault. It is mine for not reading.
Just my two cents…..

Myself (user link) says:

Bandwidth per unit area...

What’s unfortunate is that this is where Ricochet really shined. It wasn’t quite as fast as EVDO but it beat the hell out of dialup, and the microcellular architecture could sustain hundreds of active subscribers per square mile, as opposed to the macrocells used in other systems that saturate quickly with a dozen active users or so.

Another case of a technology ahead of its time, poorly marketed, and fizzled by the time it would’ve been appreciated. Unfortunately, I fear that if Ricochet suddenly rose from its ashes, it’d be too little, too late. (Unless they could hit a *very* low price point, say $15/mo.) The advantage of the microcellular network is the channel capacity to do a truly unlimited service.

Sea Dog says:


3G is the best thing around for those of us who have no alternitive. I work on Ocean Going Tugs and being able to even get the internet is a blessing. Ya It cost more then it should and all the providers are gonna cost you about the same when its all said and done.
When I am in Boston or New York and have good connection I have logged on at almost 1G. In other places it can be as slow as 100kb.
Before 3G I was lucky to get 50kb. Now I can do banking and such that I was unable to do before.

HurB says:

I think it is misrepresentation to label it as an alternative if they don’t make it clear that it’s slower yet it costs a whole lot more. “Alternative” tends to suggest that you get pretty much the same thing but a little different in some ways. The key here is that 3G cellular wireless is comparable but totally out of this league. It doesn’t matter how fast they think it will eventually become; at present, the main thing it has to offer is mobility, and that does not always compensate for the drawbacks!

Bill M. (profile) says:

I don’t think any carrier’s telling you to drop your cable modem or DSL service and go totally wireless in your home or office. I certainly haven’t seen any marketing materials to this effect, and if you’ve got some examples please show us them.

The carriers are simply pointing out what is true: For people on-the-go, you can get speeds approaching broadband (at a premium). The coverage is often better and/or more dependable than WiFi-based access plans (which cost in the same range, anyway).

As for the referenced link, this is about integrating 3G into laptops the way WiFi is integrated into Intel chips. Ultimately this is trying to start the “virtuous circle” of demand driving investment driving better pricing.

As it is, Mike’s commentary is a little like complaining ten years ago about the “ridiculous” idea that cell phones could replace your home land line. Yes, maybe it was outlandish then, but it’s a very feasible and popular option today.

chris (profile) says:

re: bill m.

that’s absolutely true.

one of the reasons that there are so many issues is that the service is so new.

other issues are that the largest mobile providers verizon and AT&T (cingular) have huge phone and DSL markets that they don’t want to cannibalize just yet.

another issue is that largescale broadband uptake in the US is pretty much done. the people that are going to get it already have it, and the people that don’t yet have it are pretty much never going to get it. that means that if you introduce a new service, it might mean that the new takers are going to come from your old wired broadband service.

i think that there should be as many choices in broadband access as possible to enccourage competition, but the big providers are going to take their sweet time in maintaining their duopolies on wired broadband for as long as the possibly can.

old_devil says:

Wireless Broadband in Australia

Australia’s Telstra (at the moment still partially government owned) is at least implicitly promoting wireless broadband as an alternative to ADSL (http://my.bigpond.com/internetplans/broadband/wireless/about/). They are doing this for two reasons.

More and more people here are abandoning Telstra’s landline network in favour of the mobile network. In response to this trend Telstra are touting their 3G service as the best mobile alternative – together with the possibility of incorporating internet access.

More importantly, Telstra is promoting their new whiz bang “wireless broadband” service in an attempt to cover up the fact that the ADSL network does not actually merit description as broadband. The network is the arguably the slowest and most unreliable one of its kind of any developed nation on Earth.

If Telstra can fool people into believing that 3G is in some way an alternative, it takes off the pressure to improve ADSL by e.g. installing fibre to node – a proposal which they recently abandoned. Being able to charge extortionist prices for 3G modem plans because they’re next big thing is icing on Telstra’s cake.

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