I thought so too, and I have seen that article too as well, but real life experience shows a really major improvement that I have noticed myself, and others have too as well. Scientific and semi-scientific tests don't always translate to real-world real-life tests, and sometimes thousands of rave reviews really shows a big difference.
Southern Ontario has excellent GPRS reception now since the new deployment in November 2003 that added 850 Mhz.
There is excellent 850 Mhz GPRS coverage in Southern Ontario right now, provided you use an 850 MHz cellphone to take advantage of the new network Rogers deployed in November 2003 and completed over the early months of 2004.
Also, wall penetration doesn't cover the whole story, but also other signal propagation characteristics such as reflection, etc. Think of radio as being light that illuminates (it's photons too), and can thus be reflected too, and cellphones working off reflections. Different material reflect 850 Mhz differently from 1900 Mhz as well. In certain cases, your cellphone works even if the antenna is behind a hill -- surprisingly! That's because the signal is reflecting off objects around the hill or top of the hill or side of hill, like a rock face, etc. Not always, the conditions must be just right, but it certainly happens from time to time. This helps GREATLY in urban canyons. 850 Mhz tends to also propagates better through reflection than 1900 Mhz does -- so you can't just scientifically test only for wall penetration, but also other means of signal propagation.
Many places improved from 1 bar strength to 4 bars, and other places that had no reception now has 2 or so bars reception. (like 2 levels underground parking garages). This year, I got nonstop reception on a train from Ottawa-Montreal-Quebec City, and from Ontario-Toronto-Niagara Falls. So I would have to say that provided
you use an 850 Mhz phone, the GPRS reception in Ontario is excellent. Sometimes I get better GPRS reception than Bell Mobility reception (however, Bell Mobility is better in other areas). Telus roms on Bell Mobility to my knowledge.
There are many shocking "Rogers reception has improved by a shocking amount" type of testimonials: Just did a search of www.HowardForums.com
(especially the Rogers section) and came up with many ...
"...Well, being in BC with the new 850 out last year, I was blown away. Hooked..." (Former Fido!)
"...I noticed that after getting my Nokia 3595 with 850band that its working better at school in places that weren't..."
"...850 makes a big difference in residences and down near the water (I'm on Stuart St.)..."
"...850 has made a big difference at york i get reception just about everywhere now..."
"...UTM campus has superb coverage with 850! Even downstairs in the libary!..."
"...Brock is covered pretty well both in and outside...go 850!..."
"...I like the 850 mhz and called today to sign up a contract with out loosing my nice number..." (Former Bell!)
"...as long as your phone uses GSM850 band, you'll be a happy camper..."
"...but there are PLENTY of places in the city that Rogers has VERY good coverage now that they didn't have before and Fido still doesn't have..."
"...I just had a great situation happen to test GSM850. Was in Dominion in downtown Toronto (Gould and Church) and the parking garage is wel-below ground and completely concrete..."
"...GSM850 strikes gold again. It never ceases to amaze me..."
"...yep huge difference RIDICOLS 850 power..."
"...850 makes a difference. end of story!..."
"...Rogers V60g in my basement, rogers V300 in my basement. V60 0 bars, V300 3 bars. V60, wont send or receive calls, V300 NO PROBLEM..." (V300 works perfect because it has 850Mhz GSM)
"...any phone that has GSM850 in VX's place works amazing. no errors, no dropped calls..."
(All copy and pasted phrases, unedited. Let me know if you want me to include the links to the original posts too; it's a lot of work copying and pasting from dozens of posts.)
Many of these are former Telus, Bell Mobility, and Fido customers who are impressed (and SHOCKED) at Roger's massive reception improvement with the 850 Mhz GSM/GPRS network. For my BlackBerry 7280, it truly makes the vast majority of South Ontario behave like one gigantic WiFi hotspot. You do NEED a new phone to benefit from the Rogers improvements though.
People with a 1900Mhz only phone more frequently complains about Rogers poor quality, but people with an 850+1900Mhz has much more rave reviews. Rogers is (in)famous for its dead spots on its 1900 Mhz network that has caused many to switch to Bell and others, and the 850 Mhz helps fill in a significant majority of these dead spots (not all, but a very significant majority -- some see nearly all downtown dead spots removed, for example, for certain cities, when using good phones)
The real-life proof is overwhelming... It may be attributable to electronics manufacturers finding it easier to squeeze excellent 850 Mhz electronics than excellent 1900 Mhz electronics, or to other things such as 2 watt versus 1 watt transmission power. Plus, yes, the slight improvement to wall penetration power. But that can be good enough to penetrate down to the bottom level of a shopping mall. Or another level underground. Or into the elevator shaft or central offices. Rogers has many perfectly borderline cases for 1900 Mhz where the slight bump of 850 Mhz made a really massive improvement. Again, all these factors above, combine to show the real-life proof that 850 Mhz MAKES A HUGE DIFFERENCE
is, indeed, very much there in real-life usage. Better electronics possible with 850Mhz? More transmission power with some phones? (2W vs 1W) Better signal propagation? It's probably a combination of all the above.
This is regarding Rogers, which has added 850 Mhz in the same locations as their 1900 Mhz antennas. Rogers Canada makes an excellent case study on the benefits of 850 Mhz. Rogers has also been much more consistent in 850 Mhz deployment in parallel to 1900 Mhz, than some USA carriers. In Ontario, it is reported that nearly every 1900 Mhz antenna is now accompanied by an 850 Mhz antenna -- not a "here-and-there" sprinkle deployment. Rogers is one of the few carriers that did an 850 Mhz rollout correctly and nearly every user on Rogers that has long been on 1900-and-then-upgraded HAS noticed an improvement to Rogers, especially more bars of signal in weak reception areas. It is THAT significant, for Rogers.