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January 13, 2005

Uh, Oh, Verizon Thinks EVDO Trumps Wi-Fi

Not good news for those who thought Verizon Wireless was clueful: This New York Times article does a terrific job explaining both technology and applications of those who want a primer in 2G, 2.5G, and 3G cellular data networking, even though the author doesn't like the term 2.5G and mentions it in passing, which then sort of confuses the role that EDGE plays in the transition. (The technology went 2G, 3G, 2.5G: 2.5G was a bridge inserted to make sure the cell companies had some faster speeds before 3G could be deployed.)

But the doozy in this piece is the quote from Verizon Wireless's chief marketing officer--note that word marketing--"For the business customer, especially the laptop guy, it's all about speed and ubiquity," Mr. Stratton added. "I think this really puts a hurt on the entire Wi-Fi concept for the business user."

He's made the classic mistake of believing his own advertising copy and has the sound of a company without a Wi-Fi plan. EVDO is maybe 300 Kbps on average on a good day. As additional users with unlimited plans and using Verizon's new video delivery service start crowding on urban networks, available bandwidth will decrease, although average speeds shouldn't drop too far; it's more likely burst speeds that jump up to 1 Mbps disappear, from my understanding.

Wi-Fi is constrained by the back-end pipe. Right now, that's 1 to 1.5 Mbps in most locations that are serious about Wi-Fi, which would include all the major domestic hotspot networks, comprising well over 15,000 of the hotspots in the U.S. That bandwidth will climb without extraordinary additional costs. Covad can provide 6 Mpbs down/1 Mbps up ADSL in parts of the country for about $80 per month. EVDO speeds and availability on cells is constrained by spectrum and technology; higher speeds are years away per earlier articles on this site.

As applications increasingly become bandwidth dependent--podcasting and video delivery being too leading-edge trends--the user who now might be content to spend $80 per month for ubiquitous EVDO in many major cities and can stand to wait a few minutes longer to download his or her PowerPoint presentation, well, that same user signs up for Cingular's future UMTS network along with a FreedomLink unlimited Wi-Fi plan, and, by the way, uses VoIP at home and the on road to cap long distance expenses and be reachable.

If Verizon is really looking at EVDO as a single mode delivery mechanism over which they deliver a variety of services, they're out of step with what SBC (and Cingular, as a majority-owned partner) is telling the industry is the future: integration across DSL, Wi-FI, and cellular, with applications layered across all three modes of delivery to their customers. Customers seek the right kind of bandwidth for the application rather than stapling the application on top of the bandwidth that the firm has available.

Among other trends, Verizon is missing the VoIP train and the increasing trend for bandwidth heavy and low latency services, and those applications could trump video on a tiny screen wherever you want it.

4 TrackBacks

The chief marketing officer for Verizon falls for reading sales pitches instead of knowing the technologies. "For the business customer, especially the laptop guy, it’s all about speed and ubiquity,” Mr. Stratton added. “I think this really puts ... Read More

The chief marketing officer for Verizon falls for reading sales pitches instead of knowing the technologies. "For the business customer, especially the laptop guy, it’s all about speed and ubiquity,” Mr. Stratton added. “I think this really puts ... Read More

Where the business people roam... from little hand on the 8, big hand on the 9 on January 13, 2005 11:32 AM

I think the folks over at Wi-Fi Networking News are a wound a little too tight about EVDO, Wi-Fi and what business people need/want out of wireless connectivity. Their article, "Uh, Oh, Verizon Thinks EVDO Trumps Wi-Fi," talks about the bandwidth nec... Read More

Wi-Fi vs EVDO from CommonSenseDesk on January 15, 2005 8:38 PM

Wi-Fi Networking News links us to this NYTs article on Verizon's EVDO strategy.New York Times article does a terrific job explaining both technology and applications of those who want a primer in 2G, 2.5G, and 3G cellular data networking, even Read More


And see the column in USA Today from this morning about the current EVDO experience:

I just spent 9 days on the road working part time, and I used a mix of T-Mobile HotSpot and Verizon Wireless National/BroadbandAccess. Since I was in Charlotte, NC, all I got was 1xRTT (NationalAccess). But for a lot of what I was doing, it was great--I peaked at around 153kbps (I kept an eye on the VZAccess Statistics window) and most of the time it was fine.

Where it was a problem was when the connection would occasionally get constipated and stop responding. Sometimes, this is because the 1xEV-DO card goes into dormant mode, sometimes it's for no good reason at all (maybe I have a bum card?). When this got too frustrating, I drove 6 miles to the nearest Starbucks.

My work routine was an hour at the hotel in the morning on 1xRTT, 2-3 hours at Starbucks, then I stopped working for a while to do some family stuff. Later in the evening, I'd be too tired to sit around Starbucks and just wanted to get back to my hotel, so I went back there and used 1xRTT for a couple hours.

1xRTT wasn't bad. I sent an attachment of 2MB and it didn't bother me. But, I got into the habit of loading all my bloglines feeds in the background (while I perused my email) rather than reading the feeds one-by-one. So, 1xRTT was usable, but it required some change in my habits. 1xEV-DO has been pretty usable, except for the fact that it uses 1xRTT for upstream. I probably wouldn't give up my hotspot for 1xRTT, but I'd consider doing it if I had 1xEV-DO everywhere. However, I'd like to lose the random stalling and hanging. Nothing drives me absolutely bonkers like my Internet connection hanging for several minutes for no reason at all!

Don't be so hard on Verizon. They've got their hands full these days: lobbying state legislators to pass anti-municipal broadband laws, defending themselves against an antitrust lawsuit that alleges they crippled a Bluetooth phone, and on top of it all, rolling out a 3G network! It's enough to drive anyone over the edge.

I'm slightly amused by Brian's comments of peaking at 153kbps. Why? 1XRTT is only capable of 164K. There is then a 10K overhead. Then add in realistic traffic flow and RF interference and you'll range around 90-110k. Why I find it amusing? When I tested 1XRTT back before commercial traffic was introduced, I could only get 115k. I suppose Verizon might have bumped up their 1X carriers to support more data.

I love it when I read posts' regarding a UTMS network that doesn't even exsit yet and by the time it is implemented and THEY are fixing their bugs, VZW will be smooth sailing with new and better products. Ignorance is a drug I'll never do...

[Editor's note: See earlier posts on this. Cingular has UMTS in several cities already per their AT&T Wireless acquisition. There are successful HSDPA tests now, too, as well as tests of higher-speed services. EVDO is just another step in the evolution; there are more to come from Qualcomm (3x versus 1x, for instance, in data-only offerings), and from competing technology platofrms. -- gf]