I actually had a post I queued up while in Barcelona about this, but forgot to publish it before I got home so I was just going to punt on it. However, Charlie went ahead and reset the stage for discussion, so I’ll chime in.
When I was out of the country (at the 3GSM conference of all places) my phone worked fine, it’s quad-band. My carrier had agreements with a local provider so that I theoretically had voice and data capabilities where I was. However, my primary access mechanism was Wifi whenever I needed to do something online. Why go through the bother? The traditional argument is that cellular trumps Wifi because cellular is everywhere, and you have to hunt around for Wifi. That doesn’t work when the cost for cellular data is 2 cents per kb (that’s $20 per megabyte for the math impaired, or about $60 per hour translating to my email/IRC/IM/SSH heavy online existence). TOO EXPENSIVE == NOT AVAILABLE.
Sure, you have the business users who have their bill footed by their company, and they’ll pay the outrageous charges. But those costs are hindering the growth of the environment as a whole. The secret backroom talk that I’ve heard on that one is that the carriers actually don’t want data usage to expand, they don’t have networks that are really suited to large amounts of data. The decision to rape a small number of highly motivated and price-insensitive users is a conscious one. I find that kinda hard to believe given all the posturing about the future of mobile data that carriers do. Should I be believing it?