I’ve caught myself in one of my first fuddy-duddy moments. It has to do with 4G. Mobile phones have taken on this moniker to help people understand that lower values of G are slower than higher ones. So far 3G is pretty snappy, and 4G is on the horizon.
This has me wondering what exactly would one use 4G speeds for. I start to think about the nature of the devices, what people are likely to do with them. I would say that for most people, voice still dominates the use of these devices but data use is nipping at voice’s heels. People are starting to request more data through their mobile devices and I think that the majority of the data is internet services followed up by the packetized SMS data traffic on the back-end. People are getting their emails, sending and receiving pictures as well as video over these data links and this use will only grow. I can see 3G filling the need for these services quite well, but I start to wonder about 4G, and what it could be useful for. Certainly 4G is overkill for most data traffic, as most of it is designed to flow neatly over current 3G signals. While shopping for new phones at our local Verizon store they started to push 4G on one of my friends. First of all, 4G isn’t in our market yet and I dare say it won’t be for two or three more years. Even if you did have 4G, what would you do with it?
The only applications I can think of are data tethering other devices or a group of devices to that signal, but that would only work well if the data was unlimited. As it is, I seriously doubt any provider will ever offer such service where the data cap isn’t 2 to 5 gigabytes per month, with more money due after you blow by that limit. So, what is the use of 4G? If I was using it, I’d say video calling would probably be the first use, but with a 2-5 GB cap, how many of these calls could you make before you started digging into your limit? If you artificially put a limit on a thing, people are going to use it and fill up their lives with that thing until they hit that limit. Much like how a goldfish will grow to fit the tank it lives in, if it’s a small tank, it’s a small goldfish, if it’s a giant tank, it turns into a carp. With the speed that 4G is pushing, the only other use that springs to mind immediately is BitTorrent. Now what would you be BitTorrent’ing over your mobile phone? Chances are pretty good that it isn’t a legal use of that protocol, chances are it’ll be porn or some pirated data.
I think what I’m getting at is, the nature of these devices may have all the speed they need to do what they do. That any more speed is a solution in search of a problem, and that almost never works well in the end. Is it speed people should be clamoring for or is it network coverage they should be clamoring for? I think that I’d be hotter for a well-fleshed out network than a network that is super speedy. It comes down to the question, what could I do with that speed, and when I hit my data cap, what then? What good is 4G speeds when you’ve burnt through your 2GB cap? In order to not accrue more charges you’d turn off 4G and float around with 3G or 2G. What use is that? And if there weren’t caps, what legal uses of 4G traffic are left? Video calling, yes, but beyond that? I’m not so sure.
A good portion of this argument comes to mind when I see TV spots for AT&T pushing their network speed over their shitty network coverage. Verizon makes the opposite argument, that network coverage is more important than speed. I personally agree with Verizon and am critical of AT&T. Yes your network may be very fast, maybe even 4G fast, but unless you live in a megalopolis and happen to catch the network when a minimum of people are using it all at the same time, then yes, I can see the benefit. But how many of us live in a megalopolis *and* can count on nobody in said Burg from trying to hit the network all at the same time? I call bullshit on 4G data currently. Those companies pushing 4G have an intended-use mismatch and they should probably get in touch with their legal and compliance teams to see if their customers will use 4G traffic for purely innocent and legal means. I am full of doubt.
So, why not just embrace 3G, call it a wash and concentrate on expanding network coverage? That’s an idea worth pursuing.
One thing did strike me at the end, if the really compelling use of 4G is video calling, who wants that? Do you really want to have to shave and look presentable, wearing the right (if any) clothing to make a call? It seems neat and does have some very limited use, but after all, who really needs it? Oh that’s right… Pornographers do. And that’s what will sell 4G. Mark my words. 4G will be powered by pornography, and you know deep in your heart that men will order up 4G porn while back-benching it at church on Sunday with their naive wifeypoo and accidental children. Mark my words.