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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 kame00 on 12/22/2009 4:37:35 PM , Rating: 2
You know that on the 3GS at least, Wi-Fi consumes less battery than 3G if actively transmitting data. In SF, I already appreciate the free attwifi hotspots around Starbucks.

Now, this doesn't mean that using Wi-Fi would extend battery life unless you are in airplane mode or at least 3G off. But you do get the speed that will get things done quicker so you can end your transmission.

On the other hand, since the Wi-Fi is fast, you tend to use it more. Then, you get short battery life.

I think we need a new battery measurement. Like kbh (kilo-byte hour) per charge or something like that. :)

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RE: WiFi battery issues
By dagamer34 on 12/22/2009 6:24:34 PM , Rating: 2
However, you have to consider that using 3G for data, means that the WiFi chip is off. The 3G chip has to be on regardless in order to respond to voice calls.


RE: WiFi battery issues
By Bagom on 12/23/2009 12:14:27 AM , Rating: 2
You can turn off the 3G on the Iphone and you can still make calls. I am not sure if VM will come through since it is DL into the phone.


RE: WiFi battery issues
By Solandri on 12/23/2009 1:35:16 AM , Rating: 2
That's only true for CDMA networks. CDMA networks basically don't make a distinction between voice and data. It's all data. Consequently it was pretty easy to migrate them to 3G. A faster network just meant the phone and tower exchanged both data and voice packets faster.

GSM uses TDMA, which is prohibitively wasteful of bandwidth if you're trying to share a limited amount of bandwidth among a bunch of users. Basically every phone making a phone call to a tower gets an equal share of the tower's bandwidth regardless of whether or not they're using it. That's why AT&T and T-Mobile were so slow to get their networks up to 3G speed. They basically had to invent a whole new way to offer 3G speed data services, then install a second transmitter/receiver for it into their phones. A side-effect of this is that you can browse data on AT&T and T-Mobile while on a phone call.


RE: WiFi battery issues
By omnicronx on 12/23/2009 12:08:01 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
GSM uses TDMA, which is prohibitively wasteful of bandwidth if you're trying to share a limited amount of bandwidth among a bunch of users.
GSM 3G is not TDMA at all, its UMTS which is based on WCDMA technology. It has similar load balancing as CDMA in which it will reduce call quality and lower data rates when more users are present, there is not a hard limit per slice like TDMA.
quote:
Basically every phone making a phone call to a tower gets an equal share of the tower's bandwidth regardless of whether or not they're using it. That's why AT&T and T-Mobile were so slow to get their networks up to 3G speed.
Switching to UMTS and having to install new transmitters in pretty much every tower is the reason it has taken them so long. For CDMA the 3g switch was mainly on the phone receiver end, GSM 3G was both tower and phone. That being said, I don't see what you are getting at here..
quote:
They basically had to invent a whole new way to offer 3G speed data services, then install a second transmitter/receiver for it into their phones. A side-effect of this is that you can browse data on AT&T and T-Mobile while on a phone call.
'They' didnt event anything, they adopted a standard, and your last statement is entirely incorrect. GSM does not fall back to GRPS 2g to make phone calls so that you can use 3g data at the same time. If you have 3G available (i.e you have turned it on and/or you are getting 3g reception), both the data and phone call will be transmitted over it. In other words the only time you will use 2g GSM is when you explicitly turn 3g off on your phone, or 3g service is not available.


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