*Your mileage may vary… 3G and 4G. And why I’m still on EDGE (and yet still consider myself high tech)

I was reading a magazine ad for the Chevy Volt and two things really stood out to me. First it said on average Chevy volt owners only fill up with gas once a month. Now I find this interesting because on average I only fill up 1.5 times a month and my car is 8 years old. The second part that caught my eye was the fine print that said *your mileage may vary.

So let me get this straight. You throw out a statistic that I don’t even find that revolutionary, then you say that half of all the owners will be filling up more than once a month anyways? Really??

So why am I talking about the Chevy Volt? Well because on the next page was an ad from AT&T saying that they had the largest 4G network and not Verizon. And so starts my article.

*Your mileage may vary.


There are really only four choices when it comes to cellphone providers in the United States.

  • AT&T. The 21st century version of the 1984 IBM.
  • Verizon which I will call Betamax (I don’t like Verizon as a company and some of their pricing models. Although I will admit in some places they’re the only one you will have service).
  • T-Mobile. The rebel punk that puts on a tie and tells you he’s a business man.
  • And finally Sprint. Poor old Sprint. Sprint is the dog that use to be healthy and respected then took a nap and got old and weak.

So depending on how well of a job I did describing the carriers you should understand this is pretty much which one is the least bad, vs which one is the best. I will however take a minute now to explain why Virgin mobile, Boost mobile, Straight Talk and the likes aren’t full cellphone providers. Virgin Mobile is simply prepaid Sprint. Although it is a separate brand and the phones are branded Virgin it runs entirely on the Sprint network. Without Sprint towers your phone wouldn’t work. Boost runs on Sprint’s network as well, while Straight Talk runs off all the networks.. sort of. GoPhone is AT&T’s prepaid cellphone provider. Their pricing model and lack of a contract may be best for you however I want you to understand you’re essentially just getting rebranded service from one of the ‘big’ 4.

Five paragraphs in and I still haven’t even really started the article. That changes now.

T-Mobile Motorcycle Girl

4G isn’t really 4G.
Lets start by saying that NONE of the cellphone providers offer 4G. LTE (what Verizon offers) isn’t 4G, even though they call it 4G. HSPA+ (AT&T and T-Mobile) isn’t 4G either. As for Sprint? Yeah they aren’t close either (in fact they are only in 7 cities right now). Why is this? Well 4G… True 4G is defined as 125mbps (1Gbit/s) while you are stationary or walking. Of which none of the providers hit in closed testing let alone public use.

What do you get currently? Most are around 3-15mbps, with some peeking as high as 50-70mbps. Thats like the car dealer telling you you are buying an F1 car (top speed 230mph) and when you drive it off the lot it sometimes tops out at 129mph but usually drives at 6-28mph. That isn’t even highway speeds! I don’t know about you but at this point I would feel ripped off.

3G sucks.
Think of 3G as a party line… I will now stop and explain what a party line is considering 99% of my generation won’t know what it is. A party line is where multiple households all share one phone line. The ring pattern would let you know who the call is for. And if you wanted to make a call while someone else was on the phone? Tough luck. These were popular in the Stone Age right after the invention of the wheel.
3G follows a scaled principle. If you are the only person on the cell tower you have fast 3G. Now it’s 2008 and the iPhone 3G just came out. Guess what? You aren’t alone on that tower and now your 3G speeds suck. This is also why if you have cable Internet from about 5p-11p it’s super slow regardless of what speed you pay for. Why? Everyone’s on Netflix and regardless of the speed you pay for you are all drinking from the same faucet at the same time.

Solution?
Um… Yeah. I don’t have one. I can tell you that you shouldn’t pay a lot for data because chances are once it’s mainstream (this is just starting to happen with “4G” now, and it wasn’t all that fast to begin with.) it will get slower not faster. This is the cellphone providers faults… Kind of. They need to scale up the backbone of the network and they need more towers. The problem? It takes a while to put up new cell towers. Especially in large cities. I’ll also call them greedy, because chances are they are.
In the mean time get what ever suits your wants and budget. As for me? My want is to not be in a contract. Which is why I have never been in a contract. I’m paying $50/month for unlimited talk, text and data on T-mobile… The downside? I refuse to get an android phone so all I get is EDGE on my iPhone 3GS. That’s basically wireless dial up. For me though, it’s worth it. I’m on wifi 95% of the time anyways and when I’m driving I can still stream songza on EDGE.

-Martin

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2 thoughts on “*Your mileage may vary… 3G and 4G. And why I’m still on EDGE (and yet still consider myself high tech)

  1. Being out of the tech-loop, I always wondered what 4G was. But, I think I understand it now. Also, I don’t have a smart phone. I know. Crazy, right? For me, knowing how obsessive I am about checking email/messages anyway… I’m just afraid of how much of a time-suck it would be. Plus, expenses. Sure, I could justify it with the apps that save money on purchases and blah blah blah, but ultimately, it seems like money I don’t need to spend for something that I can find elsewhere or through a cheaper means. Maybe I’m just cheap. But, it sounds like you’re saying it’s not worth the investment either. So, maybe I’m just innovative! 🙂

    • The iPod Touch or iPad can be a great middle ground. People save thousands (literally!) after a few years of not having a smart phone plan. Having a device that gives you all of the convenience of an iPhone without the data plan is easy in today’s world of wifi everywhere. I find it hard to find a place where there isn’t free wifi. The new iPod touch looks like a powerhouse of a machine. With a camera almost good enough to replace your point and shoot and a great screen but for the money the old iPod isn’t bad either.

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