Could you survive on mobile broadband?
Chatting to a journalist friend of mine the other day, we were comparing broadband speeds and what you could do with them, somewhat in the context of the National Broadband network. He’s on a cable connection — typically 20Mbps — whereas I’m on an ADSL2+ connection that’s theoretically capable of up to 24Mbps… but I only get about 3Mbps on a good day. That’s a function of my distance from the exchange largely, and to a lesser extent the quality of the wiring on the lines between my office and the exchange itself.
I could upgrade to cable, as he’s done, but the costs are somewhat higher for the amount of data I consume, and I just can’t quite justify that. This brought the conversation around to an even costlier form of broadband — mobile.
I’ve just done a big round of mobile broadband testing, an area in which both line speed and the cost of data has, historically speaking, never been that crash hot. You couldn’t even fill the old axiom about having two out of good, fast and cheap with mobile broadband. All too frequently, it was poor, slow and expensive, and you just had to live with that, because it was theoretically mobile.
Things are changing. Speeds are up across the board, with the introduction of faster networks with less (not zero, sadly) congestion. From my home office with a variety of modems I could regularly hit double my home ADSL2+ line speed with Telstra’s Ultimate USB modem, for example.
At the same time, broadband allowances across mobile are upgrading too. I recently tested VividWireless’ ViViFi hotspot over at CNET, and while aspects of the speed were a little on the wanting side, there’s one aspect to the service that is genuinely compelling, and that’s an all-you-can-eat (subject to an acceptable usage policy) $75 per month data plan. I’m not holding my breath that Telstra, Optus and Vodafone will follow suit with similar truly unlimited data plan pricing, but the pressure is there.
Some folks I know have made the switch to a purely mobile broadband world, just as many have already done with mobile phones. It’s not a switch I’m ready to make — yet. Whether the NBN (whenever/if it arrives) will impact on usage and costings remains to be seen, and whether we can continue to see speed and value increases across the board remains a key factor.