U.S. Behind in Wireless
An estimated 57 percent of the U.S. population chats on wireless phones — not much greater than the percentage of wireless phone users in much poorer Jamaica, where 54 percent of the people have mobile phones, according to the International Telecommunications Union. By comparison, in Hong Kong there are 105.75 mobile subscribers for every 100 inhabitants. In Taiwan, there are 110.
My initial reaction was to note that Jay Leno’s garage would hold both Hong Kong and Jamaica, making the comparison rather silly. But there’s actually more to the story:
Wireless networks elsewhere are simply better than those in the United States, said Albert Lin, an analyst at American Technology Research. “For a long time, the U.S. had way too many networks being supported by not enough investment,” he said. “The quality of U.S. networks is only now coming close to the quality you would see in major European and Asian markets.” Not that the European model was perfect: Companies there paid $125 billion for licenses to operate “third-generation” mobile networks that enable European users to zap videos and data by phone. The result: Mountains of debt, but a chance to sell phones packed with features James Bond would love.
Another reason for lower cell phone use in the United States is how service is sold. The largest carriers sell phones by subscription, requiring a credit check and a commitment of at least one year. “We have tapped out the prime-credit segment in the U.S.,” said Roger Entner, a Yankee Group analyst. “Everyone who wants to have a wireless phone and can pass a credit check has one. Everyone who can pass a credit check and doesn’t have one — after ten years of a continuous barrage (of advertising), they’re not going to cave.”
I am a bit astounded by coverage gaps. I understand not being able to get cell coverage out in the middle of nowhere–here, our gigantic land mass and thin population density work against us–but there are places in the highly populated, affluent D.C. suburbs where one can not get a signal. That’s simply bizarre.
This is interesting:
The next generation of wireless users may be machines, not people. Services such as OnStar, a subsidiary of General Motors Corp., use a combination of cell phones built into cars and Global Positioning Systems, to call for help in emergencies, Lin said. Cars that call 911 when air bags are deployed use the same technology. Similar systems are being built for vending machines to call a central office to say they need to be refilled and to monitor oil and gas company equipment used in harsh climates and using wireless networks to transmit video ads to screens in malls. “People who think we’re at a point of saturation are not including all the possible uses of technology,” Lin said.
I suspect he’s right.