MSNBC’s Scott Taves asks, “What are the differences between the mobile Internet technologies and networks of AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile, the four major carriers in the United States?”

“3G, as in iPhone 3G, is an abbreviation used for the third generation of cellular phones and networks. Starting in late 2006, Verizon Wireless and Sprint made a transition to 3G EV-DO (Evolution Data Optimized) directly,” Taves explains. “Universal Mobile Telecommunications Service (UMTS) is the standard that AT&T and T-Mobile are employing for their 3G services, although AT&T is using a faster variant called High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA).”

“Marin Perez, InformationWeek.com’s associate editor and mobile industry expert, said Sprint’s EV-DO 3G network, in its updated Rev. A form, transmits data at speeds up to 3.1 megabits per second… Verizon Wireless also uses a ‘fast’ 3G, EV-DO Rev. A network,” Taves reports.

“AT&T, exclusive carrier of the iPhone in the United States, uses UMTS/HSDPA, with peak data speeds of 3.6 megabits per second. By the end of the year, AT&T plans to have 3G coverage in 350 U.S. markets, including the 100 largest U.S. cities,” Taves reports. “‘AT&T has the handset everyone wants, but their 3G network is still smaller than Sprint’s,’ Perez said.”

“Having 3G networks in place, however, does not guarantee that wireless customers will want to use them… ‘If it ain’t easy, it ain’t going to get used,’ said analyst Pete Daily of Stratecast, which specializes in telecommunications market analysis. ‘Apple raised the bar for ease of use and set-up for a smartphone with the iPhone,’ meaning it now ‘becomes the benchmark for smartphones, to have consumer success,’ he said,” Taves reports.

“Sprint has at least a two-year head start with 4G technology. AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile have all pledged support for LTE, which stands for Long Term Evolution, a road map for the 4G phase of the UMTS standard. The first commercial deployment of LTE networks in the U.S. is not expected until 2011,” Taves reports.

Much more in the full article here.