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The iPhones have created enormous problems for AT&T's data and voice networks. As few as 12 iPhones streaming video can reportedly swamp an AT&T tower's data broadcasting abilities.  (Source: Hot Cellular Phone)

AT&T has partnered with McDonalds, Starbucks, and Barnes & Noble, thus far, to offer its customers free Wi-Fi, in hopes of reducing strain on its network. IPhone users, according to analysts consume five times as much data as BlackBerry or Windows Mobile users.  (Source: Valleywag)
Company looks to new partnership, such as a major one with McDonalds to ease the burden on its network

AT&T of late feels that it has been bullied and maligned.  First, it argues, Verizon attacked it on its geographic 3G coverage, which the company felt was inaccurate as its coverage by population was much better than the maps might indicate.  Second, the company received enormous flak when AT&T Mobility President Ralph de la Vega was asked at a business event on December 9 about what steps his company might take to control iPhone data usage. He responded with remarks that seemed to indicate that his company was planning to charge users who overused their "unlimited" plan.

Those remarks led to a planned data protest entitled "Operation Chokehold", which went down on Friday, December 18.  While the protest didn't seem to do too much to AT&T's network, it did convey the frustration of the company's subscribers.

In an interview with BusinessWeek, Mr. De la Vega now says that his remarks were misinterpreted and his company was never planning to impose higher fees.  He states, "There were no follow-up questions, so I figured everyone understood what I was saying. I guess I should have been more clear."

While many have speculated that AT&T will drop the $30-per-month unlimited data plan in lieu of a tiered pricing scheme, in order to ease its data troubles, Mr. De la Vega unequivocally denies this speculation, stating, "There are things people say I said that I didn't say. We have not made any decision to implement tiered pricing."

Rather than a stick, he says AT&T will use a carrot approach to try to solve its data issues.  Namely, it is ramping up efforts to provide free Wi-Fi to iPhone subscribers through a series of partnerships.  Its hoping that when iPhone users switch from 3G to Wi-Fi regularly, the strain on the network will be lessened.

The move is essential to AT&T as Wi-Fi via wired broadband is much cheaper than 3G data transmission.  It is estimated that as few as 12 iPhones streaming video can swamp a single iPhone tower, leading to Apple suggesting that terrorists could use unlocked iPhones as a dangerous weapon to our nation's communications.

iPhone users use an estimated 60 percent of mobile web data, though they only have about a 24.7 percent smart phone market share (in a 36 million unit market) according to ComScore.  IPhone users pay on average $95-per-month for this usage, about twice what smart-phone subscribers on other networks pay.  However, the average iPhone user uses approximately five times the data of a BlackBerry or Windows Mobile user.

To prevent such network swamping, AT&T has announced a deal with fast food giant McDonalds to waive the $2.95 Wi-Fi charge for customers at the chain's 11,000 restaurants.  AT&T already had similar deals with the ubiquitous coffee-superchain Starbucks and the bookstore chain Barnes & Noble.

AT&T's voice network also has seen its issues.  In cities the carrier's hardware partners have reported sky-high dropped call rates.  The company cut capital expenditures this year from $20.3B USD in 2008 to an estimated $17B USD this year, leading many to criticize it for not investing enough in its network.  The company responds to these criticisms by arguing that its spending this year was simply more focused on trouble spots, such as San Francisco.  Mr. De la Vega comments that in San Francisco "our network has never performed better".

His company is also considering Femtocells -- personal, portable signal generators -- as a promising solution to the company's 3G voice and data problems.  Unfortunately, those cells are still not available and no concreted details have been provided on how they're priced.  It's refreshing to see that AT&T will not be punishing its customers for its shortcomings, but its management has their work cut out for them in terms of improving their network and keeping their customers from jumping ship to rival carriers.



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RE: WiFi battery issues
By DLeRium on 12/22/2009 4:01:07 PM , Rating: 5
this is a problem with ANY phone. Sure people can attack the iPhone, but having experienced Symbian phones, and HTC smartphones AND the iPhone 3GS, I can say that all phones will suffer like mad with wifi on. Plus Wifi is always scanning for networks.


RE: WiFi battery issues
By retrospooty on 12/22/2009 6:56:22 PM , Rating: 5
No, other phones have replaceable batteries... so users that use wifi can buy and extra one to swap, or several extra.


RE: WiFi battery issues
By boushidosan on 12/23/2009 1:14:46 PM , Rating: 2
yeah i was given an extra battery for my palm centro from an ex at&t user. . . I downclock the phone and it lasts me about a week with these two batteries and minimal brightness


RE: WiFi battery issues
By jhb116 on 12/22/2009 7:47:39 PM , Rating: 1
Agreed which is why you should switch it on while browsing in an area that you can get the wifi and then turn it off when you don't need it.

I know AT&T's network is bad, use to complain about Edge once upon a time - but is it so much worse than the other networks? I'm not sure I want the Iphone on my network if this is more a function of the Iphone's capability to gobble up network capacity?


“And I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it’s superior. I don't even get it. What are they trying to say?” -- Bill Gates on the Mac ads














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