For several years now, the US has taken a back seat to Asia and Europe in regard to next-generation wireless deployment. A mix of competing wireless standards and tepid SMS usage were largely viewed as a sign that the US could not keep pace with the rest of the world.
Not any more.
While Japan and Korea will retain their lead for some time, the US is poised to surpass Europe in network speeds, bandwidth consumption and, more important, network variety. Here's the landscape as it looks today:
Next-gen Network Plans
Cingular: UMTS/HSDPA (6 cities live with UMTS)
T-Mobile: Wi-Fi currently and UMTS/HSDPA appears likely
Verizon Wireless: EV-DO (14 cities live)
Nextel: EV-DO Rev A or Flash-OFDM
Europe will see isolated HSDPA deployments, but nothing on the scale that we're going to see here. That's because Verizon's EV-DO network is pushing the other carriers to keep pace or try to leap ahead. And because Europe is on one standard and one set of train tracks, things are going to move a bit more slowly. One big wild card is the extent to which Flash-OFDM and UMTS-TDD succeed in Europe.
Remember when the US was criticized by Europe for its chaotic mix of wireless technologies? Ironically, this chaos appears to be doing more good than harm as it creates a more dynamic technology horse race.
And then there is bandwidth consumption. So what if US text messaging isn't on par with Europe; Americans are now paying for TV feeds from Sprint and are hungry for more frames per second. Qualcomm is priming the multimedia content market with its own nationwide OFDM rollout. And then there is Wi-Fi, which is wildly popular in the US and is driving carriers to create "Wi-Fi-like" wireless experiences.
Finally, there is Nextel, which will deploy a technology that is in line with what's going on right now in Korea. Truly cutting edge. (I'll post my thoughts on which vendor will win out in a few days.)
Yes folks, things are looking up for wireless consumers in the US.