That's not an unreasonable position, and the good folks at cellular
chipmaker Qualcomm would no doubt offer a "here-here" in response.
However, it's far from clear whether the alternative 2.5/3G data
services, including CDMA-2000 EvDO (evolution data only) or GSM/EDGE,
will provide either the performance or the capacity that users
demand--particularly if mainstream applications evolve to include
streaming media, which they surely will if carriers have their way in
creating a mass market for this service. In addition, I'm not sure how
many people can afford these services.
One of my colleagues, Sean Ginevan, recently did some testing with
Verizon Wireless' new EvDO data service, which the company is currently
offering in Washington, DC, and San Diego and plans to roll out
nationwide. Sean liked the new EvDO service. During his limited testing,
he averaged about 420 Kbps compared to about 120 Kbps for Verizon's
1XRTT network. In addition, latency between DC and our Syracuse lab was
under 200 milliseconds. That was high enough to cause some irritating
delays when running a Terminal Services connection to one of the lab
servers (remote presentation applications are notoriously intolerant of
high latency connections), but not so high that it wasn't functional.
Still, throughput is only about 10 percent of Wi-Fi on a bad day. In
addition, Sean experienced significant delays--up to eight seconds--when
roaming between EvDO and 1XRTT networks.
Verizon's EvDO data service is pretty pricey. The AirPrime 5220 network
card will cost you $300, and the service is $79.99 per month for
unlimited access. Give Verizon some credit for not pricing EvDO services
higher than the slower 1XRTT. Still, that's a significant cost if you
are talking about equipping hundreds or thousands of employees. You can
expect to see similar high-speed offerings from the GSM
providers--T-Mobile and AT&T/Cingular--probably at about the same cost.
While Verizon's service is notable, it's unlikely that the traditional
cellular carriers will get to true broadband data any time soon.
Although the EvDO service dedicates spectrum to data, the amount of
spectrum is limited, as is the spectral efficiency--the number of bits
per hertz--of the systems. More appealing alternatives are currently in
trial by Flarion Technologies and IPWireless.