Today's Technology section of the Wall Street Journal carries an article by Sarmad Ali called The 10 Biggest Problems with Wireless & How To Fix Them. It includes some data from Forrester Research concerning consumer satisfaction with a number of aspects of their cellular service. One would think that relative coverage in a competitive market would be fairly well researched before signing up, but some 15% of consumers sayd they were dissatisfied with the coverage of their provider (another 27% were neutral). Another 15% were dissatisfied with the dependability of their calls (31% were neutral). Ten percent were dissatisfied with the sound quality of their voice calls (30% neutral).
In my first professional job after college, I shared an office with South Dakota Public Broadcasting's director of engineering, a radio guy for some 20 years before television came along. He had a sign on the wall that said, "God didn't intend for pictures to fly through the air." Maybe it should have been packets instead of pictures.
Fast forward umpty-ump years to last night. On the short drive from Washington's National Airport to my hotel downtown, I had to redial four times to complete a "got here OK" conversation with my wife. Yes, one of those was after my cab emerged from a tunnel, but three weren't and my phone showed lots of bars everywhere except the tunnel.
As us broadcasters transition to digital, we're going to have to get used to the kind of satisfaction numbers that cellular "enjoys." Even HD Radio, which chose a more robust technology than did television, is showing subjectively less coverage than does analog radio, especially on the HD-2 and HD-3 channels. Of course, what that probably means will be that we will drive even more people to cable, DBS, satellite radio, and IP radio (the latter of which is less than a couple of years away in cars and is doing quite well already in homes and offices).