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2.5G mobile data is crap - Orange exec

And consumers don't want it. So there.

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CTIA Who this week said that GPRS is "slow and cumbersome, and nobody wants to use it on a mobile or laptop." Intel? Flarion? Or a Wi-Fi lobbyist, perhaps?

No, actually it was Orange's chief of partner operations, Steve Glagow, giving an insight into how Orange views the mobile data market. Steve was speaking at an SD Forum event called Mobile Software Value Chain where top executives were notable for their frankness.

"Consumers don't want mobile data," he added.

It's a good job there wasn't a reporter in the room.

What business customers were really demanding from Orange instead, Steve said, was consistency from the office to the home. People who dink about on high-end phones on the commute are pretty rare.

Naturally the former DEC, HP and SGI exec has a 3G network to plug, you might point out, and Orange was one of the few networks to gamble on high speed circuit switched data, on which it took a bath. So Orange was never really on board with 2.5G GPRS, or its 2.75G EDGE enhancement, and wanted to sit it out until WCDMA 3G was ready. With 3G, as let the front runners take the bruises.

But it's hard with Orange's view when the numbers tend to back him up - and the GPRS experience requires - let's be honest - a fair bit of patience. Mobile mavens like us might want better mobile data deals, but there aren't enough of us to justify the plans. Steve's point that GPRS, even at EDGE data rates, isn't ready for a mass market used to broadband speeds is probably correct right now. It's something only enthusiasts really have the perseverance to endure.

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So mobile nirvana continues to elude consumers on both sides of the pond.

Europeans have an abundance of low cost 2.5G gadgets that are capable of roaming across the wild wastelands of the web, but few affordable plans. You need deep pockets to make a habit out of using your smartphone for the internet. By contrast, Stateside GSM subscribers can still snap up an all-you-can-eat deal for less than $30 (£16.40) a month, but lag way behind in the gadgets. Neither Cingular nor T-Mobile wants to subsidize you. And the CDMA networks shun the top-end Nokia and Sony Ericsson smartphones completely.

For every optimistic note heard in Europe - such T-Mobile loosening the 'walled garden' approach in Germany - there's another, such as er, T-Mobile nixing POP3 access in the UK. Which is just daft.

Simply because a phone makes a perfect caching device for material delivered via a broadband connection to the home (a TV clip, for example) or the office (a large data set that needs to be reviewed, probably including a PowerPoint presentation) shouldn't mean it will only ever be useful as a caching device. Er, we hope. ®

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