When It Comes to 3G, Better, Not Big, Matters

In a story outlining the challenges faced by Palm’s Pre (s PALM), The New York Times reports:

“David Owens, a Sprint (s S) marketing executive, said that he understood that ‘consumers don’t perceive Sprint as having the best network,’ but that if they were to ‘look at actual network performance, there’s a gap between perception and reality.’ He said that his company’s 3G data network in the United States covered an area populated by 250 million people, which ‘is significantly larger than AT&T’s.’ (A spokesman for AT&T said that it plans by year-end to expand its 3G network to 370 metropolitan areas, populated by approximately 258 million.)”

I think this focus on covering more metropolitan areas and hence building a bigger network is wrong, especially if they can’t manage to deliver the quality and speed they advertise. Given my own personal trials and tribulations with AT&T (s T) and its network, I know Ma Bell’s Network is like 3G — minus the speed.

Update: I just wanted to clarify that this post is not about Sprint, as suggested by some in comments. Instead it is about 3G in general and tries to point out that carriers need to focus on quality of service as much as coverage in new metropolitan markets.