AT&T’s chief of Mobility and Consumer Markets Ralph de la Vega, got on his soapbox today and spouted about the U.S.’s fabulous 3G networks, which are leading the World. The trouble is, de la Vega is spouting some cell-phone hogwash.
De la Vega was speaking at the CTIA Wireless show, which is no surprise since he’s the industry body’s current chairman. The overall theme of his talk was how great America’s 3G wireless services are, and how fabulous the 4G roll out will be. To support his thesis he streamed a huge bunch of statistics at his audience. Some of them are set out below:
- The U.S. leads World in 3G subscribers, with 117 million versus Japan’s 101 million, South Korea’s 40 million, and the U.K. and Italy’s 36 million each.
- 2010 smartphone sales in the U.S. will be 53 million, ahead of 25 million in China, and 20 million in Japan.
- The U.S. has twice as many Wi-fi hotspots, at 70 million, than China with 36 million–the U.S. has more than anyone else, in fact.
- America will be the first country to get a widespread LTE next-generation cellphone network roll-out.
These statistics, apart from being an attempt to blind the audience with science, are all impressive, and they make the U.S.’s 3G provision look extremely rosy.
But there’s a problem, because of course that’s not strictly true. AT&T itself has been hit with accusation after accusation of network inefficiencies and instability, possibly caused by the massive data burden of the iPhone. The CDMA 3G system that AT&T’s competitor Verizon uses is not used elsewhere in the World, which places unique restrictions on Verizon’s tech. And in various E.U. nations, we’ve had more efficient, faster 3G networks that have greater population coverage for years already.
In fact, if you take Europe as a whole entity (which you probably should, given the European Union’s common laws, policies and fiscal instruments) then Europe has far more 3G subscribers than the States does. Wi-Fi hotspots are pretty common here too, but we don’t actually need as many as our 3G grids tend to cover more of the populated–and unpopulated–areas of the landscape. And our 3G speeds have been faster for a while now: Even in Portugal, Western Europe’s poorest nation, 3G is ubiquitous, reliable, cheap and fast–a 7.6mbps data stick for laptop 3G roaming costs just €50 to buy, for example, and there’s a good 3G signal on the capital’s underground metro trains.
In fact the 3G situation is so different on the two sides of the Atlantic that when we visit the U.S. it’s often a surprise at how unreliable cellphone service seems to be, given that we basically take it for granted. Maybe de la Vega should pay a visit over here to see how AT&T needs to get things done properly in the future?