Mobile broadband scarcity is challenging carriers in the United States.
A recent BusinessWeek online article about why AT&T and other U.S. carriers can’t keep up with the growing demand for mobile Internet access strongly communicates a major impending problem for the carriers: The carriers can’t keep up with customer mobile data demand.
As the carriers market data-intensive handsets with data plans–especially the “use all your want” plans–they’re creating a mobile broadband shortage that can only end in customer disaffection and strained networks.
iPhone users are consuming three times the amount of data than other smartphone users. BlackBerry subscribers, for example, download and upload relatively small amounts of data (mainly emails).
Although RIM with its BlackBerry Curve and handsets on the way will increase data demands on the carriers’ networks, BlackBerry data use is dramatically lower than iPhone and other 3G handsets.
However, as carriers rapidly market multi-media handsets, capable of audio, video and other Web services, it’s dramatically impacting existing customers. To put it in the vernacular of one iPhone user who commented on the BusinessWeek article: “3G sucks.”
Mobile Broadband Deficit Hits AT&T and the i-Phone
Infoworld documented the impending problem in an article called “AT&T Lays Down the Law for Apple.” The article confirms that Apple’s iPhone is sucking bandwidth from AT&T’s 3G broadcand network at an growing, alarming rate.
It’s a catch-22. Carriers must continue marketing smartphones with data plans and overcoming consumer resistance to data charges as carriers maintain and grow broadband cellular network capaciity. U.S. carriers realize their profits and margins will only grow if they can convince American mobile users to upgrade their cell phones and start using data services.
Fortunately since the release of the iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and other smartphones, consumer demand for smartphones is finally growing rapidly (penetration as of early 2010 is 20% of all mobile handsets in the U.S..).
The answer to the bandwidth problem is not only more cell phone towers, 3G radios and other carrier networking infrastructure. They’re other ways for mobile access to the Internet. Wi-fi is one answer. Witness T-Mobile’s Home Networking Service that automatically switches between wireless routers and cell phone towers.
Sprint and Clearwire’s partnership to blanket large geographic areas with broadband is another solution.
AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile and other smaller U.S. carriers continue seeking additional wireless spectrum and faster 3G/4G mobile broadband networks as they struggle with the continuing problem of consumer demand.