PC World has the results of their annual 3G survey and the outcome is very predictable. You can see for yourself in the story penned by Mark Sullivan.
I'll admit first hand I'm a very happy customer of Verizon Wireless when it comes to their 3G wireless broadband offerings when I'm out and about in San Diego County and just about anywhere in the USA. I can't say the same for Sprint where I find their speeds inconsistent, coverage patchy and most of all, their uploads horrendous. My testing with T-Mobile has been good, but not great, as their footprint isn't fully built out. When I'm in one of their coverage areas the service is very reliable, but given I'm just north of where they have true 3G service, and new towers in San Diego don't exactly go up overnight, they're forced to play catch up. As for AT&T, they may have more coverage in more places, but the service so far has never been one I can rely on for consistency, so while I've seen some amazing speeds on my unlocked HSDPA MiFi, the totem pole effect that impacts GSM when one is in a high traffic/dense user area means I won't see the kind of service I get in Europe with the same device.
All this leads up to why we need more WiFi. Speeds and consistency.
Back in the day when Starbucks cared about the WiFi experience and T-Mobile was the supplier, speeds and throughput rocked. It didn't matter if you were one of the only users sipping and surfing, or if you were in a jam packed coffee house. The experience was pure Nirvana in most locations. Other places with solid deployments, (i.e using real T1s vs DSL) were a pleasure, and now with even faster speeds available as a result of the cable industry's investment into DOCSIS 3.0 public WiFi (not Municipal WiFi) can be found in more places and with better speeds as long as the installation is done properly.
When one looks at the top speeds from the four major carriers, one quickly realizes that they are half of what a T1 and WiFi delivers. Costs are higher per month too for Mobile Broadband, but you do get it where there's no WiFi or broadband around, so of course you need to pay a premium for that. That said, it's now becoming clearer that the Mobile Operators are realizing that Mobile Broadband offload to WiFi is their salvation which makes one wonder why T-Mobile dropped out of the WiFi game over a year ago, just when it was about to be needed.
In my view what Cablevision is doing with WiFi in the metro New York area is the model of what cable companies should be doing. It's a vision a few of us had in an abortive start up called Leaps n Bounds in the early part of 2002 when we realized the best partners for WiFi were the cable folks. Unfortunately, back then, cable companies focused on consumers, and getting their customer service proposition down right. It's now, almost ten years later that they have a business proposition and own their own broadband offerings vs. the @HOME model that existed back then.
One group missing from the mobile broadband test CLEAR and their partner Sprint when it came to mobile WiMAX. Clearly (pun intended) the study would have shown how much different the speeds are, but also how limited in coverage the 4G service offers. I expect that to totally change between 2010 and 2011 when CLEAR will role out in more places across the USA and begin to likely introduce more and more 4G handsets than are currently available based on what we learned at Mobile World Congress last week as SideCut Reports points out.
All this means that the 3G networks today have their place, but faster and more reliable technologies are already here today. It's just a matter of time before the public really catches on.