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AT&T Launches GPRS

Light Reading
LR Mobile News Analysis
Light Reading
7/20/2001

Given that no one seems to be running AT&T at the moment, it’s only appropriate that DoCoMo has taken it upon themselves to determine the strategy for the rollout of GPRS. AT&T Wireless is using the DoCoMo pricing strategy in their first official rollout of 2.5G technology in the Seattle area. Users will receive one Megabyte per month.

The problem is that Americans aren’t very good at measuring things in metric—especially computer language metric. In fact, we aren't even that good at measuring things with our own measurements. (Pop quiz: How many pints in a quart?)

So, Unstrung has put together this handy conversion sheet for you kids in Seattle to carry around with your new Motorola Timeport® (Model P7382i) wireless phone GPRS phone.

Checking to see if your Microsoft Options are above water -- 10kbs
Ordering Coffee via your wireless device -- 50kbs
Reading about coffee via your wireless device -- 25kbs
Emailing your friend about a great place to get a Mocha Latte -- 10kbs
Downloading Pamela Anderson to your handheld -- Get a life, sicko

The new AT&T Wireless network has been widely reported to deliver data at a speed of 100 kilobytes a second. Oops. Or maybe it’s as the Boston Globe reported “5 times faster” than rival networks. Or maybe it’s just as Reuters, puts it—“faster.” AT&T had better be careful about raising expectations on the speed side of the service. Didn’t we learn anything last year?

Several analysts have mistakenly made the point that this announcement somehow gives AT&T an advantage over VoiceStream and Cingular, who were also hoping to be first in developing a GPRS network. Newsflash: Seattle is not a network. It’s one city. Anybody who needs this kinds of service needs it in Seattle and Chicago and New York and Europe. The field is still wide open. And even when it’s closed down a little, churn is still so high—especially with new services—that any advantage can be lost in a heartbeat.

As for the new way of measuring services, this seems to be AT&T looking for any way to convince consumers that the Internet is not free. According to Mark Tubinis, Founder and VP of Engineering of WaterCove Networks, a company specializing in data switches for CDMA, GSM and UMTS networks, the death of time as a measuring device is not realistic. “Time is not going away,” says Tubinis, “As the terminal devices become more capable, there will be a lot of streaming and persistent based services. In the long run, time is going to be the most valuable way.”

So rather than a real step towards new networks, let us skeptically call this a small step not backwards—which is better than nothing.

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