In theory, cellular networking offers the ultimate unwired experience: network connectivity as long as you are in range of a cell tower. In practice, it’s much less than its promise, but it’s still getting better every day. Most unwired power users employ a combination of Wi-Fi hotspots and cellular networking to satisfy their lust for bandwidth.
Cellular networking offers the following downstream speeds (for activities such as receiving email, downloading files via FTP, and surfing the Web):
19.2 Kbps on first generation (1G) networks. CDPD (Cellular Digital Packet Data) is a once-popular 1G service that cellular providers are hoping to phase out.
50-70 Kbps on early third-generation (3G) networks (often referred to as 2.5G), sometimes peaking to 144 Kbps. General Packet Radio Services (GPRS) is the leading 2.5G service. AT&T Wireless uses GPRS for its mMode consumer-oriented data plans and its Mobile Internet business-oriented data plans. T-Mobile uses GPRS for its T-Mobile Internet data plans.
144 Kbps and higher on 3G networks. CDMA2000, Enhanced Data GSM Environment (EDGE), and Wideband CDMA (WCDMA) are emerging 3G technologies. The first phase of CDMA2000 is 1x Radio Transmission Technology (1xRTT); it is used by Verizon’s Express Network and Sprint’s PCS Vision. At the time of this writing, EDGE is not widely available, but is reported to have been quietly deployed by AT&T Wireless and Cingular.