TheONbutton Durham Computer Services

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Verizon, 4G LTE and the iPhone

Just a few short years ago AT&T had the iPhone on the fastest 3G network and Verizon had, well, a line-up of forgettable devices. There was not a Droid in sight in Verizon’s range, let alone an iPhone, and the idea of a superfast LTE rollout was a pipe dream.

Fast forward to 2011 and the tables have well and truly turned. At CES Verizon kicked it out of the park with some well endowed smartphone and tablet devices, along with amazing LTE speeds and it looks like the carrier may announce tomorrow that it will start selling the iPhone.

It could be a fantastic year for Verizon. LTE really is barnstormingly fast and if a CDMA iPhone does get announced tomorrow I think it makes sense for one simple, but not immediately apparent, reason.

We all know that AT&T’s network suffered badly when the iPhone came along, due to the amount of data its users were consuming. Specifically AT&T called out a small percentage of data intensive users who were proportionately pulling far more data than other consumers. So we would expect the same thing to happen to Verizon, right?

I don’t think so, and not because Verizon’s network is impervious. Rather, I expect many of the more demanding data consumers will trade up to Verizon’s new LTE network because the speeds are so much faster. This migration would free up significant capacity on the carrier’s CDMA network, allowing space for iPhone users to pull data at good speeds.

So if Verizon does announce a CDMA iPhone tomorrow, I think the arrival of LTE has given Verizon the confidence to do so.

Neil Berman

Jan 10, 2011 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Mobile | , , , , | Leave a comment

Preview of Sprint’s 4G service in New York City

Sprint Epic 4GSprint will be officially turning on its 4G service in New York City on November 1, and were kind enough to toss a Samsung Epic 4G our way for some pre-launch action.  Monday’s 4G launch will cover the five boroughs, as well as some nearer areas of New Jersey and parts of Long Island.  Sprint has already lit up various other cities around the country with 4G, and by the end of the year will have covered 55 markets.  The story doesn’t end there, as the carrier told me that it will continue the rollout next year which will include solidifying coverage across the New York City area.

Although the service goes live officially on Monday, it is largely available right now while the Sprint techs make their final pre-launch checks.  For newcomers, Sprint chose to base its 4G service on WiMAX which promises average download speeds of 3-6 Mbps, with peaks of 10 Mbps.  Those speeds Sprint Epic 4G 3will easily allow customers to stream HD video, do high quality video calling and download large files quickly in good coverage areas.  When I fired up the Epic 4G I saw 5 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up as you can see in the photo, which is frankly phenomenal compared to 3G speeds.

At those speeds you might expect people to start abandoning their home internet connections, especially since Sprint does not currently have data usage caps for 4G.  I asked Sprint for their views on this and they openly encourage people to use either their 4G phone’s mobile hotspot feature or the Overdrive mobile hotspot as a home internet replacement.  Sprint doesn’t offer a wired internet service so it makes good business sense for them to try to attract new customers this way.  I expect the other carriers will do the same thing when they launch their 4G services…and the traditional ISPs might wince at the prospect.

Sprint Epic 4G 2Sprint does face a couple of challenges with its 4G rollout.  Firstly the other carriers are snapping at its heels; notably Verizon has announced that its 4G LTE network will be available on some cities by the end of the year and AT&T is working to get its 4G LTE network ready during 2011.  Sprint’s head start has probably allowed it to lock in a good deal of 4G early adopters onto two year contracts though with the Samsung Epic 4G and the now iconic HTC Evo 4G.

Sprint’s second challenge is a technical one, rooted in the frequency being used to deploy WiMAX on the wireless spectrum.  As a guide, lower frequencies tend to penetrate buildings and distance better than higher frequencies which is why GSM customers often see EDGE coverage in weak signal areas – EDGE has been deployed at a lower frequency in the spectrum than GSM 3G and CDMA EVDO, so it can reach more places.  WiMAX is being deployed at 2.5GHz, which is a step above the 3G frequencies, so Sprint has had to install WiMAX transmitters more densely compared with EVDO to provide good coverage.  New York City presented its own unique challenges to the deployment due to the high density of large skyscrapers.

Over the coming weeks we’ll be giving the Epic 4G a good workout, as both a daily 4G phone and mobile WiFi hotspot, so stay tuned for our review.

Neil Berman

Oct 26, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Hardware, Mobile, News, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sprint & Verizon 4G mobile broadband vs iPad 3G

Sprint and Verizon’s marketing aimed at getting iPhone and iPad owners to buy their mobile data plans might not be as wacky as it seems.  The idea of asking us to splurge an extra $59.99 monthly for more mobile data appears to be a wild idea, until you do the iPad math…so let’s do it:

The iPad 3G + AT&T scenario provides one connected device for $29.99 per month at an initial premium of $130 over the WiFi only iPad.

Using Sprint as the competing provider, the offering is multiple connected devices for $59.99 per month and an initial premium of $99.99 for the Sprint Overdrive WiMAX 4G/3G hotspot.

Seems like an easy decision in favor of the iPad 3G option? Perhaps, until you consider that in many US cities the Sprint Overdrive offers up to 6MB download connection speed with unlimited 4G WiMAX usage on up to five devices. That’s fast enough to supplant a home broadband connection for many people.

The average US home broadband cost as of April 2009 is $39 per month. So using the Overdrive in a 4G WiMAX covered city and canceling a home internet connection suddenly has an effective average monthly cost of $20.99. That’s $9 cheaper than an iPad 3G data plan, which of course only provides connectivity to one device and only at 3G speed.

Sprint is aggressively rolling its 4G WiMAX service within the US and its pricing includes unlimited usage, unlike most 3G mobile broadband plans which are capped at 5GB per month. Verizon is busily working on its faster 4G LTE deployment, with no pricing or caps announced as yet.  This may logically become the standard connection method for many consumers or the coming years, just as cellphones have replaced landline phone connections.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Mar 24, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Computing, Mobile, Video Features | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Price 4G?

Nokia Siemens Networks has completed a proof of concept test for its Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile data technology, which promises data rates of up to 173 megabits per second. WiMax is already available in some parts of the world and offers up to 70 mbps.

Question is, which mobile devices are going to take advantage of these technologies? Leaving aside both LTE and WiMax as they are currently emerging, precious few devices use the current high speed mobile data networks. In fact very few carriers have even implemented the fadtest 3G technology, HSDPA, which can deliver up to 14.4 mbps peak.

The whole HSDPA community is made up of users of a handful of devices such as the very smartest smartphones and some laptops, whose owners have chosen a carrier network which supports the standard.

At full speed HSDPA should give similar performance to many home or office high speed internet connections, so would increasing the data rate actually increase the market for services?

My HTC TyTN cellphone, which is basically a mini computer with a 400 MHz processor, sometimes has difficulty handling Skype voice calls over 54mbps WiFi because the processor is working so hard. More tellingly it opens web pages as quickly over WiFi as it does over EDGE, which suggests that the performance limitation for current mobile devices is in the processing speed of the device rather than the data speed of the wireless network.

Problem is as processor speed increases, the heat generated and battery power needed becomes highly challenging for a mobile device. In fact like the TyTN, the recently released TyTN II also has a 400MHz processor and I’m not aware of a more powerful smartphone on the current market. So it is doubtful that smartphones will be able to take advantage of higher mobile data speeds in a hurry.

More likely, the slow but ongoing growth of the Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC) sector will be able to make better use of fast wireless networks. These run industry standard operating systems and are more able to integrate seamlessly with corporate networks.

UMPCs also have software readily available for handling data intensive on-demand multimedia applications such as high quality video and music streaming, which fast wireless networks will be able to support. However as a society we have not reached the stage where video streaming into homes replaces traditional TV delivery methods, let alone trying to achieve critical mass in the mobile community.

Some years ago the auctions for 3G bandwith were a bonanza. In an ideal world those 3G data networks such as HSDPA and their associated service offerings would be prevalent across the market by now to repay the investment. In reality implementation and consumer adoption has been slow. There may even have been an ultimate aim for 3G networks to compete with home broadband and cable providers; HSDPA is certainly fast enough in theory.

LTE and WiMax – call them components of ‘4G’ for now – should be even better placed than 3G HSDPA to enter the home and office market to compete with fixed line data connectivity providers.

However as auctions approach for the rights to the ‘4G’ bandwidth, will the carriers be confident enough to pay such a high price again?

Neil Berman

www.neilberman.com

Dec 28, 2007 Posted by | Mobile | , , , | Leave a comment

   

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