For organizations that make their money analyzing the performance of telecommunications networks, devices and services, the coming of 4G LTE is a gift that keeps on giving. Metrico is one such organization. This week, it released a study of the AT&T and Verizon Wireless networks. The topline result was that AT&T's network is slightly faster.
The more important takeaway - one that was correctly identified by much of the media covering the release of the survey - is that the type of device used on the network has a profound influence on performance. It is easier to compare networks, because there are only a handful. But the device is as big of an issue.
To get a true picture of performance, both links in the chain - network and device - must be considered. Writes Matt Hamblen at Computerworld:
Video and battery performance varied the most. Metrico found that the individual smartphone, rather than the carrier, was most responsible for those differences.
For the record, Metrico found that the HTC Vivid had the fastest download on the AT&T network, while the HTC ThunderBolt took the honors on the Verizon network. The Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket had the highest average speed - and, no doubt, longest name - on the AT&T network. On the Verizon network, the Motorola Droid Bionic had the fastest average download speed.
The precise speeds are available at the story. The more important point is the wide variance in speed and battery life introduced by the type of device in use.
This has a couple of ramifications. The first is obvious: Organizations that still select carriers and buy devices and give them out to employees must take care to choose a combination that aptly balances the tasks the tablet or smartphone must do with required speed and expected battery life.
Things get more interesting in the "bring your own device" (BYOD) world. What will happen, for instance, in scenarios in which the device and network the employee is using can't support the applications the company deems necessary, or can't do so for an adequate time period?
It seems that organizations will need to implement modified BYOD plans. Joanie Wexler at Webtorials offers a column examining the downside of BYOD. While speed and battery life limitations are not overtly mentioned, they are hinted at:
For example, some workers deal with sensitive or regulated data that require corporate-owned and maintained devices; others need purpose-built custom devices, such as scanners, that are also non-BYOD candidates.
A scanner on a consumer mobile device is not only rare, it would be quite a battery burner. Wexler's conclusion is not that BYOD is bad; it's that it is not a panacea useful in all cases.
Speed and battery life differences are vital. Indeed, Metrico has gone so far as to extend the prelaunch tools it offers carriers and OEMs with the Fit4Lauch Battery Life Testing Service. Companies considering their device purchases and network contract plans - and whether to join the BYOD parade fully or in part - should pay as close attention to the properties of the devices as the speeds the carriers promise.