11 May 2006

3G vs. WiFi redux

Over the years, there have been numerous discussions (and some academic papers) written about the competition between WiFi and 3G. In fact, one could perhaps frame the topic of municipal networks (that has appeared on this blog rather frequently) in this way.

What is interesting about this article in the Washington Post is that it points to the changing (end user) economics of 3G. As the article points out, it is increasingly unnecessary to invest in a 3G card for a portable computer. It is now also possible (with Verizon Wireless anyway) to purchase service on a 24 hour basis at prices that are competitive with the commercial public WiFi providers (such as BellSouth and T-Mobile).

The question that users may increasingly ask themselves is: why should I go out of my way to find a WiFi access point (with unpredictable QoS) when I can perform the same function at the same price wherever Verizon has EVDO service? Verizon's EVDO services are generally rolled out across an entire metropolitan area rather than a single coffee shop, airport lobby, etc. as is the case with WiFi.

Do you think this changes the economics appreciably? Do you think this will have an impact on the viability of municipal WiFi networks?

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SeungJae Shin said...

Price matters: T-mobile's "DayPass" plan is $9.99 for 24 hours and Boingo's "Boingo As you go" is also $9.95 for 24 hours. And Wayport's one-day price is $6.95 in an airpot and $9.95 in a hotel. $15 per day is not a bad option for users who is not eqipped woth a WiFi card.

Martin Weiss said...

What is the price of convenience (i.e., not having to find a hot spot)?

I don't have the data in front of me, but I would bet that more computing devices are equipped with WiFi than with an EVDO access card. The "day pass" prices are all similar ... I don't believe that a business user would discriminate significantly among them. Would the cost of an EVDO card be a proxy for the price of convenience?