Just when most of us have yet to spring for pricey 3G mobile wireless, Sprint starts advertising 4G service in Baltimore with more cities “soon” to follow.
When it comes to mobile broadband for PCs, speed isn’t my problem. I can get by fine with 3G for most of what I do. My problem is the high price of 3G. They’re all, save one in this example, $60 a month with a two year service commitment.
My fervent hope is that 4G (or market saturation) will knock down the price of 3G from its high perch although I am not hopeful given so-called competition in this space shows no price differentiation. Perhaps mobile broadband doesn’t fit the technical definition of collusion which is “secret agreement for treacherous purposes.” When I studied economics in college, collusion usually meant price fixing and this sure feels like that.
Obviously, I knew there would be a follow-on to 3G which in my testing bumps along at scarcely more than one megabit per second (mbps). That’s adequate for email and other less intense apps and it is slow, but I’d gladly pay $30-35 a month for it. But $60? No way.
Enter 4G which promises mobile wireless speeds of 100 mbps or greater. For now Sprint is promising average speeds of 2-4 mbps with bursts up to 12 mbps which is about the same as the land line cable many of us have. But Sprint’s service is $80 a month for unlimited 4G and 5GB of 3G.
Sprint’s 4G (which is WIMAX technology, a cousin of WIFI) only works at the moment in Baltimore although Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Ft. Worth, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Portland and Seattle should be up before year’s end with Boston, Houston, New York, San Francisco and Washington slated for next year, according to EnGadget.
AT&T said in February it would begin trials next year of the its 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) network as it tries to squeeze more out its 3G network. Meanwhile, Verizon is forging ahead with trials this year and a scheduled launch of its 4G LTE network planned for the end of 2010.
Why doesn’t one of these carriers, say mine which is Verizon, drop the 3G price $10-$20, watch its subscriptions go through the roof and make the rest follow. I’d much prefer that to pronouncements about how much they spend on their 4G networks to warm us up for yet another stiff monthly tithing? 3G market saturation can’t happen fast enough.