Should 3G Be Fighting Wi-Fi?
By Mike Masnick, Fri Jan 14 01:00:00 GMT 2005

As 3G offerings are finally becoming common, the old "3G vs. Wi-Fi" arguments are showing up again. What's worse, however, is that it isn't just the press this time, but the operators as well.

For years, the press has loved to pit one wireless technology against another and declare an obvious winner. A favorite is often "Wi-Fi vs. 3G," and it looks like there's another crop of such articles popping up again. You can read David Berlind's case for 3G over Wi-Fi or, if you prefer, Glenn Fleishman's argument for why it's Wi-Fi over 3G. Be sure to place your bets, though, because in the world of "this vs. that" there apparently isn't room for two players -- even if the two technologies don't really compete all that much.

We've been down this road before. None of the wireless broadband technologies out there are perfect for every person in every situation using every application. There are times where ubiquity and mobility matter. There are times when speed and latency matter. The good thing, right now, is that you can use what makes the most sense in any particular situation and leave the worrying to the pundits.

However, Fleishman's piece does point out the somewhat surprising quote from Verizon Wireless' chief marketing officer, claiming that his company's EV-DO offering will put the hurt on Wi-Fi hotspot providers. Whether or not this comes true, it seems like an odd marketing strategy to position EV-DO against Wi-Fi at this stage of the game. While Wi-Fi certainly has a strong uptake and good name recognition, it is definitely still quite early in the hotspot game -- and there isn't much evidence to suggest that it's a really big market. The same is true with EV-DO in the US at the relatively steep price points Verizon Wireless is offering.

In other words, these are two emerging technologies, with very different business models, both struggling to find a market. So, why make them compete? You go into competition mode when the market is well defined, saturated and you can't scrounge up any new customers. That's the point at which you start attacking competitors and trying to steal market share. Both 3G and Wi-Fi have strong points -- and anyone marketing either service should be focusing on heavily promoting those features alone, rather than how they compare to another emerging technology. This is a situation where players on all sides should be building markets, not tearing them down.