A Day in the Life of 3G

Mr. Smartypants Shops for a Smartphone

Over the next year, it will become obvious that the iPhone and the Blackberry aren't the only cool smartphones on the market. New models such as the Palm Pre and a wave of new Android-based units will emerge to compete for the many consumers who haven't yet caught the smartphone bug. Mr. Smartypants is one such consumer; and when he goes shopping for a phone, he asks a lot of questions that any smart smartphone shopper should. Some of these questions are about the phone itself; others relate to the network that will connect the phone to the Internet.

Smartypants: How many cell towers do you have in town?

Store rep: Umm. I'll have to call the main office to get that.

Smartypants: About how many wireless subscribers does each cell tower support?

Store rep: Oh, yeah, I, uh...I don't think the company gives out those numbers.

Smartypants: Is the chipset in this phone optimized for the flavor of 3G service you're selling-you know, 1xEvDO Rev 0 or Rev A? HSPA or HSDPA+?

Store rep: Yes! This phone does have a very large screen!

Smartypants: What kind of wireless backhaul does the network use? Fiber?

Store rep: Well, see here, on the screen, if all five of these little bars are lit up, that means it's, uh, backhauling well...and those bars are always lit up!

Smartypants: Can this phone be converted to connect to a 4G network when one becomes available? And by the way, when will you offer 4G service here in town?

Store rep: Look, buddy--Sprint's right across the street. Go bother them.

It may seem as though Mr. Smartypants was just dipping into his knowledge base to give the store rep the needle, but all of his questions focus on issues that can dramatically affect a 3G network's performance. Wireless companies ought to be ready and willing to provide accurate answers to these questions. Why? Because their customers have a right to know what they're buying.

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