Print 55 comment(s) - last by Targon.. on May 8 at 10:49 AM

  (Source: The Huffington Post)
Study surprisingly finds AT&T dropped call rates rising, despite network investment

AT&T has the nation's fastest data network, but when it comes to its voice network, the picture isn't quite that pretty.  Verizon has long touted its superior voice network over AT&T, so this year AT&T tried to do something about it increasing its infrastructure investment by $2B USD over last year's investment.  The new investment was geared at shoring up trouble spots in cities, in particular.

Surprisingly, a study [PDF] by ChangeWave Research surveying 4,040 smartphone subscribers claims that AT&T's voice network metrics are actually getting worse.  From March 2009 to March 2010, the study claims AT&T dropped calls rose from 3.3 percent to 4.5 percent.  Competitor Verizon, meanwhile, saw its dropped call rates dip from 1.8 percent to 1.5 percent over the same time period.

The next highest dropped call rate after AT&T was T-Mobile with a 2.8 percent dropped call rate in March 2010.

Aside from dropped calls, the survey also claims that AT&T subscribers are quite unsatisfied with their voice network experience.  AT&T was tied with T-Mobile in March 2010 for the lowest satisfaction rate, with 23 percent of subscribers reporting satisfaction.  Verizon, by contrast, had a 49.9 percent satisfaction rate.

The study comments, "AT&T was clearly the worst in the March survey, tacking on yet another increase over the latest ChangeWave research survey.  Furthermore, a closer look at the trends show an increasing number of dropped calls among AT&T customers surveyed, and a steadily decreasing number of dropped calls for Verizon customers."

AT&T carries more smartphones than any other network in the U.S., currently.  It is the exclusive carrier of Apple's popular iPhone which that currently holds about 25 percent of the market (after only RIM's many BlackBerry handsets, which collectively hold 40 percent of the market).  Despite owning exclusive U.S. distribution rights to what many view as the world's hottest smart phone, AT&T has had some trouble dealing with the increased network stress that smartphones and more subscribers bring.

As part of its efforts to improve call quality, it has reportedly been hard at work with partner Apple to improve the way the iPhone interfaces with the AT&T network.  Tweaks to the iPhone firmware reportedly increased the data network speed by 84 percent between December and April, and also attempted to improve the voice network experience.

We've been in contact with AT&T spokespeople -- they refute the study's conclusions and are working to get us some independent numbers that they feel show the true picture.  We will update as soon as we get those.

Update 1: Wed. May 5, 2010, 2:30 p.m
AT&T still hasn't gave us any numbers, yet, but they reemphasized their strategy of increased infrastructure investment.  A spokesperson addresses customer concerns, stating:
We encourage any customer who is having an issue to call us so we can understand what's going on.  We value feedback of all kinds.  We continue to focus on network improvements and continue to offeri the best device lineup,  A great measure of satisfaction is customer churn, which continues to go down including in our most recent quarterly earnings, where it was a best-ever 1.07 percent for postpaid customers.
Update 2: Wed. May 5, 2010, 2:35 p.m.-
The AT&T spokeperson who refuted the results of the study provided us with the following info:
The opinions compiled in this survey are dramatically at odds with actual quantitative results derived from millions of calls made during extensive drive-testing of the AT&T mobile broadband network by a highly respected outside firm.  Those results, from GWS, show that, on a national basis, AT&T is within just two-tenths of a percent of the industry leader in wireless call retainability.  That's a difference of just two calls in a thousand, a virtual dead-heat.  In fact, the statistically valid drive tests shows the AT&T network continues to deliver the nation's fastest 3G network and near best-in-class call retainability nationwide. In those recent drive tests, AT&T's network dropped only 1.44 percent of calls nationwide, within two-tenths of 1 percent of the industry leader and a difference of less than two calls out of 1,000."
They note that the survey relied on people's recollection of how many calls were dropped, while real world tests show that AT&T drops only about 1.44 percent of calls, rather than the 4.5 percent which the study claimed.

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AT&T coverage stinks
By viperfl on 5/5/2010 4:20:01 PM , Rating: 2
There commercial that says, "Have more bars in more places", is bullcrap. If you look at there coverage map in GA, AT&T has a wide coverage area but there signal is less than average. I can only get 2 bars, 3 the most. The signal drops all the time, whether your outside or inside. There were many times where I would have to dial 2 or 3 times because the call won't go through and you notice the signal keeps dropping. It's embarrassing when I can't make phone calls but a person who has Verizon can.

RE: AT&T coverage stinks
By MindParadox on 5/5/2010 8:33:35 PM , Rating: 2
i dunno where you live, i'm in the metro Atlanta(Roswell) area with the Samsung Eternity and Mythic phones(my fiance uses the Eternity) so far, we've been a little over 2 hours out from Atlanta and full bars in to the north, east, and west of the metro area (read, Adairsville and further north, WAAAAAAAY out east on I-20, and to the Alabama line to the west)

RE: AT&T coverage stinks
By Divide Overflow on 5/5/2010 9:54:39 PM , Rating: 2
I have to agree with you based on my own observations in S. California. My (non-iPhone) AT&T cell would be out of service in all kinds of places where my girlfriend on Verizon had full bars.

The geek in me rebels against switching to the older CDMA technology that makes that coverage possible for Verizon though. Perhaps when both are on LTE things will even out a little?

RE: AT&T coverage stinks
By Gyres01 on 5/6/2010 12:02:47 PM , Rating: 2
Hmmmm my Samsung Impression has 4 or 5 bars anywhere I go here in the OC....what gives ????

RE: AT&T coverage stinks
By Cypherdude1 on 5/8/2010 12:50:13 AM , Rating: 2
I use T-Mobile in S. California. I have been with them since Jan 2006 and have a basic voice plan with no texting. I must agree with the story's findings which say T-Mobile is 2nd from the bottom. I live in one of the most developed counties in the country and I get dropped calls all the time. I typically get 1-3 bars out of 6, sometimes NONE, which sucks. There are places in my house where I cannot make a call. In the past I have repeatedly called T-Mobile. They always say they'll do something but nothing changes. If they don't change their service quality, I will be forced to change carriers.

RE: AT&T coverage stinks
By djdjohnson on 5/6/2010 3:03:06 AM , Rating: 3
The fine print of the "more bars in more places" ad indicates that they are including all GSM coverage over the entire globe. Since they aren't in control of well over 90% of that coverage, that's pretty deceptive.

RE: AT&T coverage stinks
By AntiM on 5/6/2010 8:53:08 AM , Rating: 3
They seem to have PLENTY of money to spend on TV commercials. I don't think you can watch TV for more than 10 minutes without seeing an AT&T commercial about how great their coverage is. Coverage doesn't mean capacity though. I think if they would spend more on actual infrastructure upgrades instead of advertising, they would probably have a lot fewer complaints.

RE: AT&T coverage stinks
By Alexstarfire on 5/6/2010 2:58:08 PM , Rating: 2
I find it to be quite the opposite in my case. I have full bars just about everywhere I go while all my friends, none of whom are on AT&T, have 2-3 bars or even less. If I don't have full bars they usually have 1 at best. I'm also like that other poster and am from Atlanta, GA. This has applied in Dalls/Ft. Worth and Tyler, Texas as well.

It's actually rather odd. Most of the calls that I end up dropping aren't because of AT&T signal or my phone, it's because the other person has no signal. Might be a bit of semantics, but I'm not the one really dropping the call. Nearly the same can be said for when I make calls. I've called my friends a good amount and have it go straight to voicemail. A couple times their phone was dead, but many times it's because they have no service.

That said, I've noticed something interesting. I've had my friends attempt to call me sometimes and my phone won't ring even though I have full bars. I'm not sure if that's a problem on their end or mine, but it's quite odd.

RE: AT&T coverage stinks
By Targon on 5/8/2010 10:49:19 AM , Rating: 2
Many people seem to forget that there will be differences between phones, not just between carriers. There are a number of phones that just are not good on ANY carrier, so you have to take that into account.

The iPhone itself may not have great cell phone reception and reliability compared to other phones, and since so few people are willing to do side by side tests to see which PHONE gets the best reception and reliability, it opens the door to a lot of flaws in these sorts of comparisons.

If you had problems with calls, what phone do YOU have? Is it known to have problems overall? Have you tried replacing it with another phone to see if the problem may not be device related?

Think back, if you can remember, to the days of land line phones. You had some PHONES with problems, and people wouldn't know the difference between problems with their phone, and problems with the phone service. You would even have people who had two phones, one would work, the other would not, and people would still blame the phone company when it was clear that either the wiring in the house or the individual phone was at fault.

So, use that land line example, and apply it to cell phones. If you take a phone with GREAT reliability, and you use it to test the network, you get a better idea of how good the NETWORK is. If you get something that has a claim to fame of tens of thousands of downloadable apps, then you really can't know how good the quality of the cell phone circuitry is.

"Game reviewers fought each other to write the most glowing coverage possible for the powerhouse Sony, MS systems. Reviewers flipped coins to see who would review the Nintendo Wii. The losers got stuck with the job." -- Andy Marken

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