The 4G LTE mobile broadband shortage issue probably gets more press than any subject other than newspaper obits and the World Series. That’s always been the case since Apple released the first iPhone only five years ago.
4G LTE Mobile Broadband “Shortage”
Recently, a Wall Street Journal report, based on a new study, asked whether the major wireless carriers have enough capacity to support millions of new iPhone 5’s that download and upload data 10 tens faster than before on LTE networks.
Will demand exceed supply? Can carriers build enough network capacity to service congested metros and suburbs?
Carriers claim they need more “quality” spectrum,” better frequencies to satisfy consumer and business demand for data. Competitors say AT&T and Verizon dominate wired connections to maintain wireless services. But no one sees the elephant in the room with money plastered on its rough skin. The elephant represents 4G LTE mobile spectrum, more precious than its ivory to carrier and consumer poachers.
Brian Chen of the New York Times, summarizes the “radio crisis” in a recent issue, while Martin Cooper, the aging guy who invented the cell phone, boldly claims the carriers are all wet about “spectrum shortage.”
4G LTE Mobile Broadband Elephant Getting Squeezed
Carriers believe they can pull it off. But AT&T and Sprint’s LTE networks are significantly smaller than Verizon’s. Moreover, roaming is not supported on CDMA LTE networks, which will impact Sprint and Verizon Wireless customers.
Customers, in fact, may discover that the 4G elephant performs great in the cities but poorly in outlying areas. The Journal reports this could reduce iPhone performance while increasing battery drain; in other words, a repeat of the AT&T iPhone meltdown in San Francisco years ago.
Will Wi-Fi Save the Elephant?
Is radio spectrum really scarce or, like oil and water, in short supply due to over demand? Don’t we really lack 4G LTEL mobile broadband because mobile users want to use their phones at the same time?
While carriers build more towers and infrastructure, iPhone 5 and other 4G phone users continue siphoning data around the same time– to-and-from work or school, during lunch and other times away from Wi-Fi-enabled buildings.
Carriers already encourage wireless customers to use Wi-Fi when it’s available. This reduces the strain on carrier networks, letting the poor elephant breathe a lot easier.
As Scott Goodrich of CSI reported here, 80% of mobile phone use takes place inside buildings and while using rail and other public transportation systems.
If that’s true, employees who don’t use Wi-Fi at work contribute to the 4G LTE mobile broadband problem.
With 4G LTE mobile service coverage increasing, it could be the elephant in the room does not stand for a mobile broadband shortage. Instead, the elephant represents a mobile broadband solution: use Wi-FI when available and switch to carrier networks when needed.