Now that we know what technology cell phones need for video conferencing, let's take a look at the networks needed to carry the information. As we mentioned earlier, sending video data involves transmitting a great deal of information. More powerful cell phone networks allow us to relay more information than we could with 2G technology.
As cell phone companies update their transmission towers with powerful 3G equipment, the networks can carry more information faster. Specifically, they allow users to send between 144 kbps and 2.4 Mbps [Source: Patterson]. These speeds make it possible to video conference with the person you're calling.
But if you rush out and buy a 3G-capable phone, don't expect to turn it on and immediately talk face to face with a friend. Your ability to use video conferencing depends not only on whether you have a phone with that feature, but also on whether a 3G network is available in your area. Now that cell phone companies like AT&T, Sprint and Verizon have decided there's a market for video conferencing and other 3G features, they're working to make it available. But they'll start this process in urban areas, like New York or Los Angeles before they eventually make 3G available all over the U.S.
People living in Japan, on the other hand, are already using the service -- and have been using it for a while. Japan and Europe are (in some ways) ahead of the U.S. when it comes to cellular technology. The reason is that Japan and these European countries are geographically smaller than the U.S. It takes fewer 3G cell phone towers to cover everyone in Japan than it does to cover everyone in the U.S. In addition, some theorize that Americans are slower to invest in advanced cell phone features because the U.S. has such reliable landline service compared to the rest of the world [source: Bora].
Will the vicious cycle be broken? Will Americans still refuse to cough up extra cash for video conferencing cell phones, thinking family and friends won't buy them?
Many think that when video conferencing is included on popular phone models more people will have the feature and therefore more people will want the feature. Rumors floated around that Apple would include video conferencing on its second generation of iPhones. But that was just a pipe dream -- the new iPhone will not include that feature, though it does include other 3G features.
Who's to say whether video conferencing will ever become as standard in the U.S. as text messaging? For more information on your cell phone and other telecommunications devices, investigate the links on the next page.