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Cellular Data Experiment

AT&T Data Coverage - TX, OK, KS

AT&T Data Coverage - TX, OK, KS

This weekend, I’ll be traveling to Kansas City to watch my Chiefs battle the Dallas Cowboys.  As I travel north, I intend to test out multiple data applications from my iPhone 3G.  Specifically, I want to see how steaming applications like ESPNRadio’s application work in a car traveling 70mph.  A couple years ago, I had a rental car that was equipped with an activated XM satellite radio.  The drive to and from the metroplex was much more enjoyable when I could listen to ESPNradio on XM channel 140.  So part of my curiosity is whether my iPhone with the ESPNradio app is equal in performance to an XM radio.

Recently, Abilene Christian University dove into the arena of streaming video utilizing services like Ustream.  During ACU’s Summit in mid-September, the university streamed three lectures a day and had a total of 1,200 viewers for the four day event.  Using the Ustream app for the iPhone, I kept tabs on one particular lecture while I was driving around town.  I caution that I wasn’t actually watching the lecture while driving, but I was listening and testing to see how well the connection held up as I crisscrossed town on a couple errand runs.  I was impressed that the streaming connection held up, with little if no disruption as I was handed off from one 3G tower to another.

While I’m hesitant to believe the iPhone equipped with stream applications will displace the satellite radio industry, I am curious if “mobile” connectivity is indeed mobile.  I recall several years ago folks differentiating cellular data as “nomatic” rather than “mobile” because connectivity couldn’t be sustained in a car moving at 50mph.  Add in a mixture of multiple cellular data networks (3G, EDGE, GPRS) and the data throughput speeds will vary drastically.   None the less, the experiment should be interesting.  Too bad it doesn’t present a way to write off the trip as a “business expenses”.  I’m still working on this angle.

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