back to article US noses past Western Europe in 3G stakes

Though the US still trails in terms of freedom from mobile tyranny, it has surpassed Western Europe in the great race towards 3G. Just. Believe it or not, American wireless subscribers are now more likely to use high-speed 3G networks than subscribers in Western Europe. According to the people tracking mavens at comScore, 28. …


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  1. asdf
    Thumb Up

    of course

    Funny how market forces work. When you have a free market instead of government sponsored monopoly the prices are actually low enough that people will use the data services. Here in the US I get truly unlimited 3G data for $40 a month with nationwide coverage. No way can you get that rate in Europe short of performing felatio on the right people. Of course Europe is more "sophisticated" (and snooty) technology wise but I am happy to take the lower prices any time.

  2. David Evans

    Lies, damn lies...

    ...and statistics. Arbitrarily describing Europe as only five countries (even Western Europe) and then claiming "we win" is hardly a great showcase for a so-called analysis company like ComScore; especially as it leaves out the two highest penetration European territories, Sweden and Austria. The actual European 3G number passed 100m back in May, way bigger than the US.

  3. Mark Cathcart
    Gates Horns

    @asdf - You are kidding right

    Who is your US contract with ? I think its much more to do with the fact that the US users just are not aware they are paying more. My prior O2(UK) contract with unlimited data was much cheaper than my current US AT&T stitch-up, admittedly the data part is about $40 as you state, but I can't have it without all the other over expensive services.

    When I travel to the UK, I have a Three pre-pay SIM that I use that provides a months 3G fair-use data for £5 so say about $9...

    Bill because he knows a good deal when he sees one!

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    More unequal comparisons...

    >>>It's also worth noting that although US 3G penetration has edged ahead of those five European countries as a whole, it still trails Italy and Spain if you consider them separately. Italy boasts 38.3 per cent penetration, Spain 37.2 per cent. Meanwhile, the UK is at 27.6 per cent, Germany 23.9 per cent, and France 17.1 per cent.

    It's also worth noting that US is geographically larger than all of Europe. If you'd like to compare the penetration, perhaps you should review it at a State v. Country level. We have technologically advanced states, i.e. California, which are bigger than Italy.

    Paris, because even she would be able to compare sizes more accurately.

  5. kns2c

    Re: of course @asdf

    Funny how interweb comments work. You don't have to let facts get in your way. The only hope is that maybe you are being sarcastic and by "government sponsored monopolies" you mean US telecoms that squandered billions of taxpayer dollars and by "nationwide coverage" you mean top 50 markets or whatever PR speak they use. Yes, there are unlimited 3G plans (I have one for $20/month), but pretty much useless outside of big cities. I miss my 30-euro unlimited plan I had in Europe 2 years ago and multiple competing carriers that I could switch between while keeping my phone. Try going between Sprint and AT&T or even between Sprint and Verizon (same tech, should be easy, right?) without signing a 2 year deal "short of performing felatio on the right people".

  6. Solomon Grundy


    Of course areas of small geographical scale are going to reach higher levels of standardized sophistication faster.

    I'm not sure what 3G is though. My phone doesn't do anything but let me talk to people - not sure why you'd want a more sophisticated phone than that.

  7. Henry Wertz Gold badge

    Also the rollout...

    The situation in the US really is that on-phone data is pretty cheap -- typically $15 for unlimited use on the phone (but some companies have it for $5 or $10). But aircards are like $60 a month usually. (This can be combined, so $15 on phone data + $45 to be able to tether the phone to a computer.)

    BUT, lots and lots of phones have "3G" (AT&T's term for WCDMA) or EVDO support.

    Verizon Wireless has EVDO over probably 90% of their coverage area. EVDO Rev A does up to 3.1mbits/sec down and 1.8 up. Typical speed's like 1mbit down and 512 or so up. I have an older Rev 0 card (2.4 up and 144kbps down max) and get about 800kbps down and 128kbps up or so.

    Sprint has a smaller coverage area, but has EVDO over most of it.

    Alltel has physically the largest network in the country (they avoided buying expensive licenses for cities, and built out in rural areas.) They have a lot of EVDO, and I bet get a lot of business for the farmland where there's no DSL or cable available, and probably none in the future.

    AT&T doesn't have a large area built with WCDMA, but has a large proportion of the population covered built out (i.e. they've built out more populated areas first.) I think they're mostly running the ~3mbps or so variety of WCDMA.

    I think the aircard pricing actually helped -- I'd love a $20 aircard plan, but I suspect then they'd be oversubscribed and I'd be getting like 100kbps. (Although, AT&T's network is creaking a bit post-iPhone rollout.)

  8. Rick Leeming

    @ asdf - Geography Lessons

    You may benefit from them. If you hadn't been informed previously Europe isn't a country, it's a continent.

    I work for a company that trades in the US as well as the UK, and i've looked at the deals. We get a better deal when you take all the extra benefits into account (handsets are free, as are 3G modems etc).

  9. Richard


    My 3G "smart" phone does not do anything other than data .. who wants to talk to people when you can email them?

    Admittedly the data bit drops off thanks to Winblows Mo-bile and only gets fixed by refitting the removable battery (try doing that on your iphone .. oh wait, it just works)

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Government Monopoly vs Free market

    The simple fact of the matter is that Europe had a free market in mobile phones well before the US did. I've recently had the displeasure of moving from the UK to the US, and I can certainly vouch for the fact that mobile phone costs are way higher in the US than Europe. Especially once you take into account the higher equipment charges (for lower spec equipment), higher fixed charges, and, if you haven't got an all-in deal, higher call charges (taking into account paying for incoming as well as outgoing calls). By the way, according to everyone I know who has a 3G phone, it is largely unusable. Sitting in my Manhattan office they often can't get a signal.

    It is pretty obvious that in terms of mobile phone tech, Japan is ahead of everyone, and Europe is ahead of America. The main reason for this has little to do with free markets or government monopolies, but is largely to do with the ratio of landmass to population. The higher density the population in your country is, the greater chance that you will have better mobile phones (certainly for the developed countries).

  11. John

    Tax not Technology

    The problem in the UK has been the pathological greed of the government over the sale of concessions - it's got nothing to do with technological advance and all to do with the grotesque charges which networks have needed to pay to be allowed to invest further large amounts in their infrastructure. The result has been very high charges for users and technological retardation in the market. This is the sort of taxation this stinking government loves - one that most people who are of course completely stupid do not realise is a tax.

    Let's hope the government spent it wisely - just a joke, wars for the neocons and the vast importation and sustenance of useless third world mouths don't come cheap.

  12. Tammer Salem

    The real numbers ...

    These numbers mean very little. I happen to work for one of the largest multinational telcos and I know for a fact that average revenue per user in data usage in the european market is triple that of our american counterparts. Coverage is also sketchy in the US. Apart from a couple of major cities hsupa is not available let alone first gen 3G. In the UK we have approx. 88% 3G penetration for the big 4 telcos, and about 45% hsupa coverga across the country. Per head, that's a lot more covergae. Also having 3G is slightly pointless without enriched content services. The avergae american usage of 3G is limited to browsing and video calls, while in europe these services have been around for some time. We're now into music downloads, tv broadcast, and location based services.

    Make no mistake, the US telcos will eventually realise that their businedd model is restrictive and will eventually follow the european model.

    I still believe that the US will be playing catch-up with europe for at least a couple of years to come.

    How do i know? Most of what we've implemented in europe across our natcos are being picked up by our US natco (about 2 years later). The european market is oversubscribed at around 120%! That indicates more sofisticated usage, while in the US they are still in acquisition mode. When they reach saturation, that's when things will pickup.

  13. asdf

    not in germany

    If the 3G prices have come down that much in UK then im amazed. they sure werent that cheap in germany a few years back, but then again everywhere just about, is a freer market than germany.

  14. Tony

    "a few years back"

    "...a few years back..."

    Commenting with all the up to date knowledge, quality.

    "I bought some petrol in the UK a few years back and it was nowhere near being a pound a litre, you're being ripped off!"

    Get some current numbers in your head and come back clued up.

  15. Andy Hards

    I'd much rather have

    my nice shiny smart phone for £24 per month with loads of free minutes and 1GB of data (which I have never come close to reaching with heavy daily use). Last time I was in the US the phones were all cheap, nasty little things with pull out aerials, and then I saw my friend's phonebills and was shocked.

    I didn't take my Nokia charger as in the UK EVERYONE has got a Nokia charger laying around somewhere and I assumed it'd be the same in New York but no, I couldn't charge my phone as I couldn't find anyone with a Nokia charger. Now I'm not saying Nokia's are the best (I wouldn't buy anything else myself) but the phones they had were years behind. Mine is a multi function thingy, I use it as my digital camera, MP3 player, interweb browser and phone. Stateside they've just discovered texting! And they still pay to receive calls, which WILL NOT HAPPEN HERE (fingers crossed).

    Alien cos I thought I'd gotten off a time machine and not a plane. I thought I'd see McFly and the Doc. It was like 1985.

  16. Henry Wertz Gold badge

    US 3G deployment..

    "Apart from a couple of major cities hsupa is not available let alone first gen 3G"

    Yeah, the majority of 3G rollouts in the the US are using EVDO. AT&T's several years behind in rollouts, and is the only large provider using WCDMA-based tech in the US. (T-Mobile is planning on it too, but last I heard, they had the 384kbps UMTS installed in one city.)

    In the future though, Verizon Wireless and AT&T are planning to go LTE. VZW is in the process of buying Alltel (so their footprint will also get LTE, whether Alltel was planning to or not.) Sprint says they are planning WiMax, but really, they're going to HAVE to put some LTE in I think, unless they are planning to become some kind of wireless ISP instead of a phone provider.

    " Also having 3G is slightly pointless without enriched content services. The avergae american usage of 3G is limited to browsing and video calls, "

    Yeah, not even the video calls so much I think. Basically browsing. I think the US telcos have looked at 3G more to reduce congestion on the existing EDGE and 1X data channels (since WCDMA and EVDO are more efficient) -- the higher speeds are just a happy side-effect they can use to sell *some* data services.

    "Make no mistake, the US telcos will eventually realise that their businedd model is restrictive and will eventually follow the european model."

    I hope so! My phone service is good, but the phone's locked up tight! I'm hoping with LTE that the cell cos will HAVE to lighten up.

  17. Andy Bright

    re: @asdf - You are kidding right

    He also fails to mention that he pays for incoming calls on his 'cell' phone, which uses up his 'free' minutes at an equal rate to the calls he actually makes himself. And if he increased his plan to closer to $100 / month he might get unlimited 'local' calls, but he'd have to double that again to get the same thing nationwide. He's certainly not paying $40 for unlimited calling in any State I know of, which is most of them with the amount I travel for work.

    Personally I'd much rather have my old mobile plan from 10 years ago than the one I've been forced to take in the US.

    People here just can't believe that we treat mobile phones the same way as we do for land lines. i.e. the person making the call pays for it, as opposed to the US system of charging both of them.

    And in case you were wondering, no they don't get free local calls on land lines, they simply pay a higher fixed monthly fee than you do in the UK. Make a call to someone outside your local area but still within the State and you'd pay close to double what someone in England does for long distance. State to State calls are much less, but only because most people don't make nearly so many.

    Flames for exploding mobiles, whatever happened to this time-honoured tradition? Come on Erickson and Nokia. Your Scandinavian fire-starters are sorely missed.

  18. Zmodem

    sounds like and smells like dog poo

    briton has 69million phones or something. and most will be 3g. with tmobile doing 5day data packs etc for £2.50/with the web n walk thing

  19. Hinter Hansi

    @asdf Austrian 3G

    I was in America only recently, and I must say compared to Austria and most of Europe your '3G' network is a joke! In fact even your telephone network is a very unreliable with spotty reception and terrible call quality. It's a different world here - for example my HSDPA modem connects at 7.2 Mbps and costs me €9 a month! That goes over the mobile networks, and is years ahead of anything you've got. Period.

  20. Mike Street

    @ John

    I'm all for having a go at the government, but in this case you seem to want to re-write history.

    The 3G licence sales were an auction - IIRC no-one put a gun to the Mobile Operators collective heads and made them bid. They did so because they thought it was in their commercial interest to do so.

    Certainly they've been using it ever since to justify their pricing strategies (I heard one exec say that 'someone has to pay for those licences, and it will be the customer' as though it was a reasonable point of view) and trying to say it wasn't their fault, but, you know what, it IS their fault. Curiously, the people who made this apparently dumb decision didn't seem to suffer for it - just their customers.

    Good rant, though. Shame about the lack of facts.

  21. Hugh_Pym

    It's all about standards

    At the beginning of the mobile communications roll out virtually all of Europe got together and signed up to the same set of standards. In the US the various vested interests and bitter infighting lead to a strangled and fragmented service. That is why the US is so behind virtually everybody else in the world. Some of the poorer African countries are ahead of the US in coverage because of the benefits of cell phones in open country.

    On this side of the pond the coverage, equipment and services available are far in advance of the US so simply stating data is cheaper in the US is not enough even if it were true. The US will not catch up for a long because the insular nature of US media does not show what they are not getting.

    The so-called 'open market' is a poor model when strategic planning is required. There are some things the government should get involved with on your behalf.

  22. Tim Williams

    What US 3G ?

    I've never managed to get a 3G signal in the US during my travels there, even in major cities and urban areas. Where are these mythical 3G networks that everybody in the US is subscribing to ? I suppose they must all be incompatible with standard european phones.

  23. David Beck

    This has nothing to do with usage, it's about owning a 3G handset

    If you read the press release what they say is there are a large number of 3G handsets in the US. Since the only handsets in the US are supplied by the carriers and they can supply what they like, I'm not surprised. It does not say they are using the 3G aspects of the handsets, and given the coverage, they are not. They could have just as easily written that millions of US phone users are downloading Java applications, possible but unlikely.Or any of the dozen other things of which my handset is capable.

  24. Hayden Clark Silver badge

    Maybe this is the effect of the US BB market?

    With the lack of competition in the broadband market, perhaps it's almost worth getting a 3G modem instead of cable/DSL!

  25. Anonymous Coward


    Perhaps the main difference is one of perception...

    In the States, you don't pay to receive calls on your landline. You also don't pay to receive calls on your cell phone technically. Your mobile contract involves cell phone usage, period. Incoming, outgoing, data, what have you. Your paying for the convenience of being mobile, not the call itself.

    @Andy Bright -

    BTW, I pay one fixed fee for all landline calls, anywhere in the country (which would be equivalent to anywhere in Europe), for less than $50US (~£28) monthly. Tell me, what that would cost on your side?

    Additionally, most major US providers offer unlimited, nationwide plans for ~$99. No roaming, no LD, for an area the size of Europe. Check NTelos, Sprint, T-Mobile.

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