The illogic of two-year cellular contracts

Cellular data is getting faster again, with the debut of HSUPA.

A year ago, EV-DO Rev. A was hot stuff, giving CDMA companies (Verizon and Sprint) the lead in North American mobile data, with nothing on the horizon that would give an advantage, or even parity, for the GSM cellular carriers (such as Cingular-AT&T and T-Mobile).

Now, GSM-family Class 6 HSPDA devices downloads reach 1,800 Kbps, reaching a rough parity with EV-DO Rev. A. That isn't good enough, so HSUPA was created, and the FCC just approved the first such device, giving roughly double what EV-DO Rev. A delivers (when AT&T builds the network to match the device).

This keeping-up-with-the Joneses, cold cellular war of one-up-man-ship is getting down right crazy, for with a new faster data system every year, upgrade penalties are a prerequisite to advance with another carrier's system. The standard two-year cellular contract really gets in the way of progress. It may be effective for the cellular companies in slowing down churn (customers moving to new cell phone companies), but why not give better service instead of locking customers in with contracts?

Will you upgrade to a world-compatible higher-speed data system, even if you face termination fees for doing so?