I'M DEEP INTO A second week of powering the house exclusively with over-the-air 3G service from O2-Ireland. I'm getting upload speeds twice as fast with O2 than with Eircom. I'm paying four times as much for the Eircom broadband service. Eircom's wifi signal doesn't reach into the corners of our tower house as efficiently as the Huawei Mifi dongle (in the photo) I use to serve three different devices in the house. I'm amazed but not really surprised because O2's data services have improved year-on-year. You can see that in the photostream I have for screenshots of Mifi speedtests and I've specific blog posts about the quality of service written through the years. I think it's important to review some of the things I've observed about mobile broadband.
1. Mobile Broadband is not an Traveling Service.
I don't expect to get high-speed packet services when aboard Irish Rail, Aircoach, or when traveling around the Ring of Kerry. That is not what "mobile" broadband means. Although I can see a 3G icon for much of the time I spend commuting between Cashel in Tipperary to Dublin on the Liffey, that little 3G quickly becomes the letter E (for EDGE) for long stretches of Irish landscape. And from student feedback, I know that if I lived in small towns served by EDGE, my 3G SIM would deliver only dial-up speeds.
2. No political will exists for an extensive 3G masts array.
You need a national network of fibre serving homes or an overlapping network of 3G masts to provide proper broadband for the masses. In Ireland, the political will does not exists to impose that kind of infrastructral standard on new estates or in broadband blackspots.
3. Maps of Broadband Ireland borrow from the Weatherman.
When the weatherman says "scattered clouds" it means approximately 45% of the sky is cloudy. When the Irish Minister of Communications waves his hand over an area of broadband coverage, he means to indicate scattered, not compehensive, broadband services exist under that promising green space. In my experience, no more than 45% of a mapped sector claiming to be covered by mobile broadband is actually served by a 3G signal. It's not going to get better even with the aspirations of serving broadband to every Irish citizen.
I have better mobile data services than ever before in Ireland. Through the 10-year history of using my mobile phone as my blogging device, I have cut my data fees by more than €140 a month and I have increased by data usage by more than two gigabytes every month. I thank O2-Ireland for delivering this result. They haven't paid me to write these words and as regular readers know, I've had my share of billing disputes with O2-Ireland. But across the board, I ardently endorse their quality of service.
Previously -- "Reflecting on mobile broadband services" on InsideView, June 18, 2008.