Have we become too dependent on network speeds?

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: April 28, 2011

With the ability to browse the web at snail-like pace, the first “smart” phones that made their way into the consumer market were slightly ahead of their time. The networks that the first BlackBerrys and the original iPhone claimed home to were extremely slow and definitely not meant to handle data and traffic of any real capacity.

I can remember back to when I got my very first BlackBerry on Alltel. At the time, I was cruising along on a 1X signal. Loading mobile web pages could take up to a minute or more; full sites could take several minutes. Personally, I didn't care. I was on top of the world and more connected than anyone else around, however slow that connection may have been.

Not long after I upgraded to the BlackBerry, I began to notice the signal meter start fluctuating between “1X” and “1xEV.” Alltel had started rolling out their 3G (1xEV-DO) network. And again, I was on top of the world, browsing the web at several times the speed I was used to (still painstakingly slow for today's standards).

Carriers are now in the process of transitioning to the next generation of wireless networks, 4G. In what seems like no time at all, we have jumped from speeds comparable to ancient dial-up connections to speeds that leave my home cable Internet connection in the dust. With WiMAX, LTE, and HSPA+ floating over our heads at any given time, we've definitely learned how to take these truly impressive network speeds for granted. Many of us have even grown dependent upon 4G.

As you all may know – especially you ThunderBolt users who may have slowly managed to load this page – Verizon's LTE network has experienced a fairly serious and widespread outage over the last 24 hours. Considering only a limited number of devices can access LTE, the number of users that fell victim to this outage are minimal. But what this outage has effectively done is given us LTE users a trip down memory lane and sent our 4G-guzzling selves back to 1X, the Jurassic period of the smartphone realm.

Out of curiosity, I spent some time yesterday perusing some Android forums where the woes of ThunderBolt users could be read on page after page. Getting used to download speeds that range from 5-20Mbps and being temporarily sent back to 50-80kbps has been a serious reality check for many.

Fortunately, not everyone has been stuck with the horrendously slow 1X network speeds. I, for instance, woke up without any data at all, but started picking up a 3G signal shortly thereafter. Even with 3G, just managing a full day without LTE was pretty tough. There were a few videos and pictures I needed to upload that would have taken several hours – and probably failed or timed out at some point – over 3G. The much slower network even made web browsing, Twitter, and Facebook painful to use.

Whether I use it for uploading large files (which I tend to do regularly through Dropbox) or for tethering, I need my LTE. I've been spoiled by Verizon's super fast 4G network and in as little as five weeks, I've become very dependent upon it. Do any of you feel this way? Are you lost without your LTE? Or did you hardly noticed it was gone? How was being sent back to 1X for a day?