Mobile Work – IT Week Opinion
With bandwidth, size does matter


Mobile data services providers are currently trying to argue that
bandwidth is not important – but it is.

Mobile Work – IT Week Opinion

Mobile data service providers offering WAP, GSM, GPRS, HSCSD and 3G
connections deliberately seem to be playing down the significance of
data rates, but anybody who has worked in data networking knows that
bandwidth is everything.

To be fair to the service providers, the
metrics used for wired data networking cannot be applied to a cellular
world, where network performance fluctuates and coverage is full of dead
spots, black spots and other areas that mobile signals fail to reach.
This uncertainty would simply not be tolerated in a wired environment.

But the inability to guarantee even a minimum data rate does not justify the
mobile operators’ claim that subscribers don’t care about bandwidth or
technology, only about the services, such as email and internet and
intranet access, that technology enables.

This argument may be
true in some respects, but it is also designed to deflect attention away
from the failure to guarantee reliable data transmission.

strategy is akin to a train company deciding to abolish the timetable so
that performance can no longer be measured.

Whatever their
understanding of technology may be, potential subscribers to mobile data
services are sharp enough to know that none of the services they sign up
for will be worthwhile unless the network provides sufficient bandwidth
to make them usable.

So if those of a more technical mind do tend
to bang on about data rates, it is for a good reason and not down to
some pathological obsession with numbers.

A good example can be
found in the recent assertion, made separately by both Vodafone and
T-Mobile, that a 3G subscriber who has a 3G signal during a data call
will not notice anything but a “slight dip in speed” if the service
defaults back to GPRS data rates.

In my experience, GPRS speeds
have rarely peaked beyond 10kbit/s. So I could be happily browsing the
internet with 3G data speeds somewhere in the range of 40kbit/s to
64kbit/s one moment, and defaulting back to 10kbit/s the next. At this
point, I would probably notice more than a dip in speed, because the web
application I was accessing would become immediately unusable.

Similarly, what if I were sending or receiving a large PowerPoint
presentation, a newsletter with pictures, or any other file containing
high graphical content? If I were using a 3G connection that file might
download in 10 minutes or less, but if the connection goes back to GPRS,
I am more likely to be looking at an hour.

Given that I am about
to get into a taxi, onto a train or board an aircraft – I am, after all,
a mobile worker who needs to stay in touch while on the move – that is
an hour I do not have.

I am actually a big fan of mobile data
services, especially 3G, which for the first time provides enough
wireless bandwidth to actually browse the internet on the move at
dial-up rates.

I’m just asking for a bit of honesty here, for
providers to stand up and say it like it is, instead of trying to
convince us all that bandwidth doesn’t matter.