We launched our LTE network in Kansas City (and 14 other markets this weekend). If you’re one of the lucky few who gets to experience this, congratulations…it’s pretty phenomenal to watch all of those bytes flow through the air. However, like any momentous shift in technology, there’s this strange period where we really don’t know what to do with all the new-found power.
Don’t get me wrong, I was BLOWN away when I ran my first speed test on Friday and found that I was pulling down 15mbps…. 15!! That’s 3X what I get at HOME! I immediately posted that speed test to the internet to brag to all of my friends and then slowly let it soak in….what the heck are people going to do with 15mbps?
Aside from everything on my phone being just a bit quicker, people naturally gravitate to streaming media. I accidentally did some real-world testing over the weekend while I was Disc Golfing here in town. Saturday, I braved the 100° temps and hit up Blue Valley Park for a grueling 18 holes up and down the hills of this wonderful park. To my surprise, I was bathing in Sprint’s shiny new LTE network across the entire course…Spotify never missed a beat and my phone happily played Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zero’s for a couple of hours straight from the comfort of my shorts.
On Sunday, I decided to bask in the sun again, this time out at Swope Park. Swope has naturally had some coverage issues because of the land permit struggles out there, but I was able to pull a fairly decent 3G connection. With just a couple small hiccups, I had no problem listening to 2 1/2 O.A.R albums while walking the course. So even though music probably does put a good strain on the network….most of those services have been optimized for 3G speeds and do a decent job in creating a good experience.
Ok, so if not music, how about video? I don’t buy the premise that we’re going to sit around with 4.6″ screens and happily watch the premier of Breaking Bad, or catch up on the latest episodes of Arrested Development from a Netflix app (super excited for that….but I’ll probably watch it from the comfort of my home). Even with the larger tablet screens (10″), the average consumer has proven that they’re not willing to shell out a mobile plan and we carriers have made sure it’s cost prohibitive to do so (only 6% of iPads connect to a cellular network).
Video Chat? Maybe…that tech has been around since the 1930’s (yes….for real), so is speed really what’s been keeping it from the main stream all these years?
Multiplayer Gaming/Voice Chat? Potentially…but I can’t imagine that cocky 13yr old kid who always kicks my ass on Call of Duty would be comfortable taking his crude mouth into Target with his Mother in ear-shot.
Google Glass/Augmented Reality? Sergey seemed to find a way to “rig” up his fancy demo at Google I/O with some magical wireless network….you can imagine that adding augmented reality imagery to the mix will definitely require a few more bytes to make you see the things that don’t really exist.
Honestly, I don’t have the answer yet but I know it’s going to be revolutionary…somehow human beings find ways to exploit most technological advances (the phone I carry in my pocket is more powerful than the computer I used in college). I also know that there are people out there right now, dreaming up what they’ll do with all that bandwidth.
As a mobile operator, if we don’t find ways to deliver that access, someone else will….