Shirky: Why 3G is doomed

Clay Shirky's posted a great analysis about the inevitable failure of 3G (Going, Going, Gone) in the face of WiFi.

The reason the nearlynet strategy is so effective is that coverage over cost is often an exponential curve — as the coverage you want rises, the cost rises far faster. It's easier to connect homes and offices than roads and streets, easier to connect cities than suburbs, suburbs than rural areas, and so forth. Thus permanet as a technological condition is tough to get to, since it involves biting off a whole problem at once. Permanet as a personal condition, however, is a different story. From the user's point of view, a kind of permanet exists when they can get to the internet whenever they like.

For many people in the laptop tribe, permanet is almost a reality now, with home and office wired, and any hotel or conference they attend Wifi- or ethernet-enabled, at speeds that far outstrip 3G. And since these are the people who reliably adopt new technology first, their ability to send a spreadsheet or receive a web page faster and at no incremental cost erodes the early use the 3G operators imagined building their data services on.