Overly Optimistic: Analysts Predict Cellular Broadband To Surpass Copper Broadband By 2010

from the yeah,-right dept

There's just something about new wireless technologies that seems to make analysts over-estimate their impact. I still remember when people were talking about how GPRS was going to be a real DSL replacement. GPRS, of course, was an incredibly unreliable and ridiculously slow update on GSM wireless technology. Yet, before it was used, there were stories predicting how it would be a wireless revolution. And then people started using it. And pretty much the same thing has happened with each advance in cellular technology. I remember people saying that EDGE, EV-DO, and HSDPA (all network upgrades) were going to be good enough to replace DSL or cable modems. Yet, even though EV-DO and HSDPA get decent speeds (still much slower than your average DSL or cable), the real problem is how these networks simply don't have the capacity to be a real home broadband replacement. That's why all of the contracts have ridiculous limits, suggesting you can't do very much with them, and often placing exceptionally low usage caps on the services.

Of course, don't tell that to the analysts, who can't resist making the same exact prediction about cellular broadband replacing home broadband. The latest such report is focused on the UK, and says that cellular based broadband for computers will surpass DSL or cable as the primary connection for users by 2010. That's not very far in the future. Now, certainly, mobile technology has improved greatly over the years, and there's still plenty more to come. However, the only really consistency in the mobile world is that many analysts over-estimate both the speed with which these new networks are adopted and the quality of these mobile networks. It would certainly be great, if true, but consider me skeptical.

Filed Under: broadband, predictions, uk, wireless


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  1. identicon
    marek, 20 Jun 2008 @ 5:19am

    There are two things here worth separating out: the speed the technology can support, and the capacity to support it.

    Earlier technologies couldn't do the speed, so the capacity was always less of an issue. Sitting in my office in central London, I can get 4Mb/s on my 3G phone which is comparable with the 5Mb/s I typically get on my notionally-8Mb home broadband. So I can in principle get roughly similar speeds between the two.

    Actually getting those speeds is a different matter. I can't do better than about 200kb/s on 3G at home, and even in an area where fast speeds are sometimes possible, the actually available speed is often dramatically lower than the sometimes achieved speed.

    So the claim about 3G is different from the claim about GPRS and all that followed. They couldn't ever be a proper substitute. 3G could be - but right now, there is no reason to think it is actually going to be any time soon.

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