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Will Verizon's data network be the key to slaying AT&T Wireless?

AT&T Wireless has been taken to task on a number of fronts when it comes to what exactly you get when you buy 3G data service. Coverage isn’t studly enough to make people like Om Malik happy using an iPhone. In the latest grumbling, SlingPlayer over the AT&T network has been turned into a piece of crippleware a la Skype, with data getting trunked over WiFi if available, if not, lots of luck cuz it isn’t going over 3G.  There’s not enough bandwidth to over 3G to support streaming video, quality of experience, yadda, yadda, says AT&T.

And this is AT&T with a monthly  data cap, so it could rack up some serious overage charges to the bottom line… if the network could handle it.

At the same time, Verizon Wireless just reshuffled its data plans in conjunction with its 3G netbook offering, lowering overage prices from around 25 cents per MB to 5 to 10 cents.  I feel… I feel… Verizon may bump up its caps in the future to twist AT&T’s nose a bit more.

You just HAVE to wonder how caps will “work” when Verizon starts rolling LTE out in all of its multi-megabit-per-second glory.  I wouldn’t expect a wholesale migration of iPhone users, but the speed junkies will be tempted.

Doing the time warp again, Verizon was pilloried by Wall Street for investing in FiOS. Now, FiOS is bringing in serious cash and a nice offset to declining landline customers and revenues.  In order to make FiOS work, Verizon had to beef up its backend network.

Now that beefed-up back-end network is available for other wireless customers  (and Verizon pointed this out in a press release around CES — can you hear me now, AT&T?) for backhaul and that also means there’s healthy data capacity to spare for both EVDO and forthcoming LTE.

Does a much faster, more reliable data network trumpet the ease-of-use on an iPhone?  It’s an interesting question.

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