Battle of the Maps

Peter : On Rad's Radar?
| Peter Radizeski of RAD-INFO, Inc. talking telecom, Cloud, VoIP, CLEC, and The Channel.

Battle of the Maps

Cellular companies have some of the lamest ad campaigns. Apparently, the marketing folks AND their ad agencies are SO far removed from the consumers that they don't even know what message to spend millions on.

What difference does a coverage map make to the average consumer? Your phone either works or doesn't. Most folks I know buy a phone based on where they spend the most time. And switch carriers when the contract is up if the coverage sucks. All the mapping in the world isn't going to granular enough to help someone decide which carrier has actual real coverage where they need it.

AdAge has a column on the map war. It misses the point that VZW grew mainly by acquisition. (Buying Alltel helped VZW get bigger than AT&T). But iPhone users do not have an alternative -- you either use AT&T or you get another phone. VZW has marketed more phones than ever this year, but still no iPhone. (Reviews suggest the Droid is close).

When I think of the biggest travelers I know, they have more than one cell phone -- and on different networks. Why? Because no carrier as extensive coverage. 

There's this thing called physics when coupled with CAPEX means no carrier can blanket the nation. Even when AT&T proclaims: "AT&T covers 97% of all Americans. That's over 300 million people." That claim is based on blanket coverage and FCC type data. By that I mean, when they bought the spectrum, it was for a blanket area that would cover X million people. Does a strong single actually reach all those people? Does the signal follow these people as they go about their day? Probably not. The physics of the spectrum is that it is finite and the voice designed network can only carry a fixed amount of traffic. Period. The only way to carry more is to create more cell sites; add more spectrum; and increase cell tower terrestrial backhaul capacity. All of that equals Big Big Dollars -- not really covered by the data ARPU of $15 per month. 

As I said before, let's see how VZW's network holds up against massive smartphone usage. AT&T should be spending ad dollars on network upgrades.

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