3G's Delayed, But How About EDGE To Backup Your T1?
By Mike Masnick, Mon Feb 21 23:00:00 GMT 2005

While most of the 3G focus has been on phone replacements, eventually the battle is going to move to wireline data replacement as well. Cingular jumped into that battle with a cellular wireless "backup" service. However, it's based on the slower EDGE service.

It's an issue that many mobile operators seem to be tiptoeing around. If 3G (and beyond) cellular services are really as fast as promised, then could they start to compete with the wireline competitors of DSL and cable? There are also a few wireless technologies shooting for this spot as well, including (maybe you've heard of it) WiMAX. While, many 3G offerings started with datacard offerings for laptops over handsets, that may be more about launching 3G to a smaller set of users to handle the initial load. Very few operators seem to really be pushing 3G as a real wireline replacement for data connections.

Either way, it's a bit surprising to find that an operator like Cingular would be trying to head down this path so early. Cingular today announced an EDGE-based backup service for companies. The idea is to set up an EDGE connection for your network, and if the wired T1/DSL/cable line goes down, the system automatically shifts over to the EDGE connection and its much more limited bandwidth. The announcement also says that it can be used as a regular, rather than backup, connection -- but the wording makes it pretty clear that most businesses wouldn't want to do that.

With EDGE speeds this sort of arrangement is likely to bog down pretty quickly if anyone in an office is seriously using an Internet connection, but it still shows that Cingular is trying to plant some seeds for how it wants companies to view its wireless broadband offerings. While the company has put off deploying a real 3G solution until it can get HSDPA ready, its obviously hoping to capture some of the business market by focusing on the corporate computer user, rather than just the handset users or even mobile professionals (since this sort of solution is a fixed one).

It seems unlikely that there's a really large demand for a service such as an EDGE-based backup line for offices, the fact that Cingular is out there pitching it before many companies who already have real 3G offerings gives a hint of what the company is planning to offer -- and where the next battle may come from. Even if Cingular is owned by two companies who provide DSL and T1 lines to businesses, the next battle may not be between the different wired providers (telcos vs. cablecos), but over whether or not there need to be wires at all. While wired offerings will likely continue to have the speed advantage, the speed of wireless connections may be reaching that "good enough" stage where enough users will see it as a credible alternative to wired -- effectively trading speed for mobility.