The grim reality of data network carriers
Some interesting revelations from U.K-based carrier O2:
O2 says 128Kb/s is all its 3G customers need | The Register
Read it and weep. Then realize the irony if Apple had released a 3G iPhone last year, and stayed with O2, that the 3G iPhone would have been slower than the actual 2.5G iPhone that was released (EDGE is around 180-220kb/s). Imagine as well how many high-end Nokia smartphone owners gloat about ‘super fast!’ 3G while signed up to O2 in the UK. And how the iPhone is faster on EDGE than other smartphones using UMTS. Then break out the laughs.
Of course the bigger question here is that the whole 2 vs 2.5 vs 3 vs 3.5G debate is really a moot point. While there is no doubt that a HSDPA-equipped phone is capable of reaching extremely high speeds with data, the reality is completely different. Is it any wonder that mobile carriers offer no QoS (Quality of Service) on data connections? While carriers make a big deal about ‘blazing-fast 3G!!’ to sell lame phones to unsuspecting punters who know no better, the reality is that you will probably never experience anywhere near the full speed that your device may be capable of. And it’s gonna get a lot worse in the future, as more and more data-capable devices connect to the networks, start sucking down data, and the cell towers start to hit full capacity. Rather than a network stop allowing more data connections on a tower, instead it will go down the path of higher and higher rates of data contention (in other words, just keep sharing out and split the available bandwidth more and more). Of course, nowhere in your mobile contract does it declare the minimum speed of your data connection, just that data will or should be available when necessary.
In the future there is a glimmer of hope though.
So called 4G technology (WiMax or LTE) will start to break up the traditional carriers monopoly on mobile data speeds and rates. This is where mobile data starts to get interesting. Here in Berlin WiMax is already available, from 2 or 3 different vendors and companies. Currently the speed you can expect from a WiMax-capable device here is around 2-3Mb/s for around €15-20 flat per month. Of course, 2-3Mb doesn’t sound as good as ‘7.2mbps HSDPA ZOMG!!’ but the chances of you actually having the coverage, and getting anywhere near that speed is extremely low. At least with WiMax it’s business model is similar to DSL, and thusly you can expect a half-decent QoS agreement. And LTE also looks very promising, albeit only on paper at the moment (deployment is not expected till around 2009/2010).
But for the moment we will all have to put up with the deceiving mobile carriers a little while longer. I’m sure that when the 3.5G iPhone is released on O2 in the UK, they will declare how much ‘faster, with more Blazing’ speed the new model is in comparison to the older 2.5G iPhone. And you know what?…people will just keep sucking it up as well….