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Does 4G Wireless Matter to Travelers?

At the moment I am in the Valley of the Sun, the Phoenix megalopolis. (If only it would run out of water and start shrinking. It would be a better place.) Its only real significance to me is that it is still on the Gila River migration route. But I can't help wondering about Verizon's 4G wireless service, available only in big cities like this. My mi-fi gadget is only a 3G model, so I can't actually sample the 4G service.

It seems like I should be as excited about this improvement as I was when Verizon upgraded from 2G (1xRTT) to 3G (EVDO) a few years back. But back then there was no 5 Gigabyte per month limit. It makes sense that there should be a limit like that, despite the howls of gamers and video-addicts on the tech forums.

So I have no real complaint against Verizon. But it does make a customer wonder what is so great or important about 4G wireless service: the only thing it's good for is watching videos, but if you give in to that temptation, you'll smack up against your 5 Gigabyte per month limit that much sooner. So what good is 4G service to me?

If the telecom company only charges $10 for each Gigabyte past the 5 Gigabyte ceiling (always rounding up, of course), perhaps that's not such a big deal to some people. But this blog is aimed at early retirees or other people who take "alternative lifestyles" seriously; and for most of us, $53 per month for the first 5 Gigabytes is quite enough to spend on the internet.

Why not just buy the couple dozen classic movies that are worth watching for $5 to $10 per DVD disk, and be able to enjoy them without an internet connection? DVD movies, books, MP3 music, and digital photography are all activities a traveler can enjoy without an internet connection. This is too much of an advantage to let go of.

The same argument could debunk the vaunted and over-hyped "cloud". How is it advantageous to a wireless customer to edit photos or do word processing by increasing his data traffic, which he will end up paying for? It's virtually free and significantly faster to use software that is installed on your hard drive. The best of both worlds is probably exemplified by the Kindle, since you only need occasional internet connectivity to put it to use, and lightning speed is not really necessary.


Old Fat Man said…
As I understand it, I do not even need one of them readers. The book can download to my computer and use the free readers to read the book. Amazon has a free reader you can down load to use with your computer if you need one.
OFM, it's hard to see why a person wouldn't try your suggestion first. If they thought the laptop was too inconvenient to do much reading, they could always switch over to a Kindle gadget later.(But how would you transfer the book from your laptop to your Kindle? Surely you wouldn't have to buy it over again?)

Kindle gadgets are so popular it makes you wonder when we became a nation of readers all of a sudden. Maybe people buy them, buy a book or two, and then stop reading them because they find that a spiffy new gadget doesn't change the fact that it's difficult to find something worth reading. Content is still king, gadgets or no gadgets.
Ted said…
Or it became such a PITA in comparison to flipping on the TV that people forgot, or never learner, how much they enjoy reading. Kindle, et al, take the PITA out of the equation. Voila, books are popular again. Steve Jobs was wrong.

Ebooks on Kindle can be redownloaded endlessly to any Kindle device or app. Usually simultaneously is fine, but the publisher (not Amazon) can decree it one ereader (or 5 Max, etc.) at a time if they wish.

3G is plenty good enough for me. Any place where I would be able to receive 4G the 3G would be strong enough, fast enough, for my needs and desires. Unless the data limits go up proportionately with the speed I won't be interested.
Ted, the only advantage that I can think of for 4G wireless has nothing really to do with being up to ten times faster; rather, it is because the 4G wireless uses the 700 megahertz spectrum that the FCC snatched from TV stations and auctioned off as wireless phone/data spectrum. These long wavelengths should improve coverage in rural areas or forests. But it's the better coverage, not the data speed that will benefit most travelers.
Ted said…
My understanding is that most rural areas in the US use the Cellular A or B bands within the 800 MHz range. So I don't know that the coverage per tower will increase by much (though every bit helps!). But building out the 4G network should get all the 3G electronics updated to the latest and best as well. So I'm not at all unhappy with the 4G "revolution". ;)