Although I don’t normally like to advertise for our competitors, I can’t help but draw attention to GigaOm’s recent mobile broadband buying guide, which does a great job of highlighting the robust competition in the mobile broadband space. The guide seeks to navigate the vast array of choices available to consumers and notes that, with the competing 4G networks now available and more emerging in 2011, a veritable mobile broadband tsunami has arrived.
One of the most interesting aspects of GigaOm’s guide is the role new, niche and smaller carriers play in the ever-changing competitive marketplace. GigaOm highlights some changes that took place in just the last six months:
- Cricket now offers nationwide 3G roaming.
- Clearwire’s WiMAX rollout continues with service coming to three more major cities in the next couple months, covering an additional 13 million people on top of the existing 56 million already covered by its network.
- Sprint-owned Virgin Mobile is winning customers with its 3G prepaid service – $40 for a month of unlimited 3G data – pumping up its net adds for the third quarter.
- Also in the prepaid market, Clearwire’s new Rover brand offers inexpensive, unlimited 4G service – as much 4G data as you want for $5 per day, $20 a week or $50 a month.
- Tethering options that allow you to use your 3G or 4G smartphone as a mobile hotspot are becoming prevalent, with all four major carriers offering or planning to offer the ability.
AT&T of course introduced its tiered data plans in June, including a 200 MB plan that costs only $15/month. This provided a new low-cost option for many who thought mobile broadband was unaffordable, contributing to terrific mobile broadband results in the third quarter. AT&T’s third-quarter net add growth reflected rapid consumer adoption of smartphones and growth in a host of connected devices such as eReaders, security systems, fleet management and global positioning systems in both the business and consumer markets.
On other fronts, T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network implementation keeps rolling, to be completed this year. Its 3G plus network will cover 185 million people with claimed theoretical speeds of up to 21 Mbps. And Verizon will commercially launch its 4G LTE network this year. Meanwhile, we’re upgrading our 3G network to HSPA+ technology, and our field trials of LTE are well underway with commercial deployment on track for next year. And MetroPCS was the first carrier to introduce a 4G LTE handset, currently supported by its 4G deployments in two trial markets. Metro advises that LTE is “coming soon” to Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, locations in Florida, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Sacramento and San Francisco.
All of this of course is a huge win for consumers. And, as the FCC brings to a close its analysis for the 15th Annual Report on Wireless Competition, these developments and the array of options available to consumers should lead to only one conclusion: that the competitive U.S. wireless marketplace continues to drive investment and growth and that the market is dynamically competitive to the benefit of U.S. consumers.