AT&T has long been vilified as the bane of iPhone’s existence, the only thing ruining what could be the perfect smartphone experience. But, as reported by CNNMoney, they may be taking the blame for what would have happened to any network – yes, even Verizon.
By far, the biggest complaint among iPhone users – and the basis of an intensive Verizon advertising campaign – is that AT&T drops calls and has a spotty service map. The network has been rated the lowest in customer satisfaction. These are problems, but are they really only AT&T’s problems? CNN posits that, really, the industry in general was unprepared for the iPhone, or more accurately, the massive amount of data that iPhone users gobble up.
Daniel Hays, an expert in the wireless industry and PRTM consultancy partner, says, “The challenges that AT&T has are being faced by a lot of operators around the world: Very rapidly growing usage coupled with dense populations. Would it have been different on Verizon? Probably not.”
AT&T itself admits that service is subpar in New York and San Francisco, two cities where iPhone users have the most dropped calls and patchy coverage. But – there’s a big but coming – it probably would have been worse if another network had been chosen as the iPhone’s carrier. AT&T does have the fastest 3G network, which has a coverage zone of eighty percent of the US population; their non-3G coverage is more extensive.
Verizon has gone on the attack with clever ads decrying AT&T’s coverage. But Chris Larsen, an analyst for Piper Jaffray, wrote, “For Verizon…we still wonder if the network has the capacity and backhaul to support a device with an adoption curve of the iPhone.” In other words, what would happen to Verizon’s network if its data traffic increased by 5000 percent? That is exactly what happened to AT&T in the past three years. And their network wasn’t quite ready for that increase – but neither would others have been.
That said, AT&T recognizes the need and the urgency of improving its network. To address the concerns, they have deployed over 20,000 WiFi hotspots around the US to relieve data burden on the network. They plan to double their network speed in the next few years, and, according to AT&T spokesman Fletcher Cook, they have improved network quality by twenty-five percent. They may also institute a tiered data plan system so big data downloaders would pay more.
Larsen adds, “Unfortunately for AT&T, when it comes to network quality, perception is reality and right now Verizon has a more positive public perception. If AT&T can continue to show improvement in network throughput, it may blunt some of the impact.”
It might be hard to give up the idea that AT&T is the root of all Apple evil, but maybe iPhone users should be glad the network has handled a 5000 percent data increase with only some dropped calls and patchy service, primarily in dense iPhone usage areas. What would a lesser equipped network have done?
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