Need for speed should not exceed need to maintain budget
by Alan Zisman (c) 2012
published in Business in
Vancouver February 7-13, 2012 Issue #1163 High Tech
If you’ve played computer games, you’ve probably run into some version
of Electronic Arts’ Need for Speed. Produced locally at EA’s studio,
the classic NFS III let players race through what are recognizably
Vancouver streets and parks proving that faster is better.
Speeding through downtown streets is frowned upon in real life,
however. Instead of a souped-up Ford LTD, those of us with a need for
speed these days might instead opt for LTE.
LTE (for long-term evolution, though what that means is unclear) is a
high-speed wireless network available from Rogers from Horseshoe Bay to
Aldergrove (along with Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal – 25 markets
promised for 2012.) Competitors Bell and Telus are promising LTE
networks, but not quite yet, not here, though Bell’s billboards already
promise “LTE speeds” with selected phones.
I tried out three devices on Rogers’ LTE network. The Sierra Wireless
Aircard 313U (marketed by Rogers as an LTE Rocket Stick) plugs into a
USB port on a Windows or Mac laptop or desktop, while HTC’s Jetstream
and Raider are Android-powered tablets and smartphones. Rogers also
offers LTE versions of the Samsung Galaxy SII smartphone and a mobile
(There are no LTE versions of Apple’s mobile devices, perhaps due to
the relatively small percentage of mobile customers currently with LTE
Last fall, John Boynton, Rogers executive vice-president and chief
marketing officer, proclaimed that “with LTE wireless network coverage,
customers have access to speeds similar to broadband connections,
making it easier for people to use their devices to download apps,
stream HD videos and music or play online games, with virtually no
delays or buffering.”
I tested this claim using the Rocket Stick on my Mac laptop, comparing
LTE performance to my mid-tier Shaw cable home network logging into two
different online bandwidth-testing sites.
The results were not entirely consistent; the tests at reviews.cnet.com/internet-speed-test
rated the LTE connection up to three times faster than my Shaw
However, speeds for the two types of connections seemed identical
according to testmy.net
– though both were rated twice as fast as the 3G connection on a
These tests measure the time it takes to download large files. They
provide scientific-seeming numbers but don’t entirely reflect actual
online use. Browsing online with LTE felt different from what I was
used to: web pages didn’t gradually load, one element at a time.
Instead, with LTE at first it seemed like nothing was happening.
Suddenly, though, everything appeared at once. Probably faster overall,
but that initial pause could make it feel slower.
Rogers suggests that the high download speeds make LTE a superior
method of watching streaming video, both on a handheld device or
connected to an HDTV. In addition, the company hopes that it will
enable a range of new, rich, connected applications.
For example, it demoed a scenario where an ambulance bringing a patient
to a hospital emergency department video conferenced with admission and
medical staff, getting a head start on treatment while on the road.
Rogers is currently offering LTE introductory plans that provide 10
gigabytes (GB) of data for about $50 per month. Regular pricing
includes two GB for $35 and six GB for $60 with a $10 cost for each
(A two-hour high definition movie streamed over Netflix comes in at
about 3.5 GB, so only a few movies each month could use all that
Owners of LTE smartphones should note that these prices do not include
standard voice service.
With LTE here (at least locally) from Rogers and in the works from the
other major mobile providers, it’s worth considering.
As a technology, it promises to fulfil mobile users’ need for speed,
making rich multimedia connections as practical as it already is for
users connected to wired and Wi-Fi networks.
But ordinary users should resist the promise of streaming
high-definition movies on their mobile devices, at least at current