Print 29 comment(s) - last by mlZr.. on Jun 23 at 12:01 PM

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson is quite pleased with himself. He says his company is greatly improving its call quality.  (Source: AT&T)
Says it has come a long ways in figuring out how to deal with the iPhone strain

Thanks to the success of Apple's iPhone, AT&T's customer base has increased over the past three years. However, the network has also been pushed to the breaking point.  In terms of data speed, AT&T appears to be the fastest network in the U.S., but its voice network has been plagued with reports of dropped calls and poor voice call quality.

However, starting this year AT&T has been beefing up its network, investing an additional $2B USD in infrastructure.  Company Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson said in a CNBC television interview which aired Tuesday that those efforts are paying off.

He said his company is close to bringing its mobile voice call quality close to where it wants it.  He states, "We've been going hard at the voice quality issue."

Stephenson did not discuss dropped calls, but AT&T spokespeople have expressed to us previously this year that the company believes dropped call rates are falling.  Those claims are at odds, though with a recent study that claims dropped call rates are actually 
going up.

Its voice network has reportedly had dropped call rates as high as 30 percent in recent years (AT&T's own statements have indicated a much lower rate of < 5 percent of calls dropped, but AT&T has continually been unable to provide us with dropped call rate studies that focused exclusively on urban areas).

AT&T is bracing itself for a massive surge in subscribers with the release of the iPhone 4. Hopefully the investments in its wireless network infrastructure will show some real world benefits once these phones start reaching customers later this month.

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RE: How about...
By spwrozek on 6/16/2010 10:33:30 AM , Rating: 3
It is not as easy as "put up more towers!!!!". There is a lot more going on then you realize. In many areas they are not allowed to put up towers. Cities, counties, townships have zoning rules and many times will not allow it. They will say "there is a transmission line, put it on that tower". Which starts a long process of dealing with the tower owner to get approval to be located on the tower. Once they get approved to go there a structural analysis has to be done on the transmission tower. Many times the structure will not pass due to the latest version of the NESC. This leads to $25,000 or more being for nothing and having to go a different route.

People can be mad and think that AT&T does nothing but they do a lot to improve networks, it can be a long process with push back on many fronts.

RE: How about...
By Cobra Commander on 6/16/2010 10:45:24 AM , Rating: 4
Yup, the whole 'not in my backyard' concept applies.

Everybody wants someone else to get the tower.

RE: How about...
By aharris on 6/16/2010 10:49:09 AM , Rating: 1
Thanks for that insight Mr. AT&T employee.

RE: How about...
By spwrozek on 6/16/2010 11:05:19 AM , Rating: 2
I don't work for AT&T and I have Verizon phones...

I am involved with some of the processes that are described above. Dealing with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon.

Just wanted to point out that it is not easy to put up another tower or even another cell site on an existing location. And it is certainly not cheap.

RE: How about...
By quiksilvr on 6/16/2010 11:59:20 AM , Rating: 2
Well if that's the case, why not then improve the towers they have now? Boost the signal strength, upgrade the servers. Do something noticeable.

RE: How about...
By spwrozek on 6/16/2010 1:20:30 PM , Rating: 3
Ok so say you have a tower with older antenna and TMA that support the edge network. The 6 antenna and 6 TMA weigh 250 lbs with no ice and wind load. Upgrading to 3G network support will result in a weight of say 400 lbs. 4G you have to throw more stuff up there. You also have 9-18 coax cables running from the ground unit to the antenna.

The thing to consider is that, at least as far as transmission towers go, they are designed to hold power lines not cell antenna. Very small additional loads can push it over the limit. In engineering you do not design in capacity for no reason as it costs money. Towers put up in the 60's or 70's were not designed with cell antenna in mind.

The question now is who owns the site? Does this company want to make modifications to the tower? In many cases the answer may be no. Which can put the cell company in a hard place, they may have to try another tower or approach the city showing they can't be in a certain place and need their own structure. Then wait for that to be approved. which leads to them doing something that is not noticeable.

The public cannot expect that the problem will be made better overnight. We can decide to go with another company (like me since Verizon has 3G in my area and no one else does) or continue to support AT&T with hopes for the improvements to come quickly.

RE: How about...
By quiksilvr on 6/18/2010 9:49:56 PM , Rating: 2
I understand that the problem cannot be fixed overnight, but that doesn't mean it's an excuse to have these same problems for 4 years and when the competition show's your spotty network, you don't waste millions on stupid commercials!

You bite the bullet, pay the $100k and put up a 3G cellphone tower. Put up 100 a month! What's $1.2 billion in one year when you're making $20 billion a year? And instead they come out with this MicroCell 3G as if it's going to magically solve all the problems? To hell with AT&T. T-Mobile gives me better 3G coverage, and I can't think of an insult worse than that.

RE: How about...
By cduchamp on 6/16/2010 12:19:56 PM , Rating: 2
spwrozek.. can you contact me offline about the processes involved in putting up a tower? I find this debate interesting and want to learn more from someone with firsthand experience. thanks- cathyduchamp [at] hotmail [dot] com

RE: How about...
By mlZr on 6/23/2010 12:01:15 PM , Rating: 2
But you see, here's the thing. Verizon has great service. Like - really really really great service. They have the exact same situation as ATT when "putting up more towers". Because of this, customers expect zero dropped calls. No one thinks it's easy - but when you have millions of people paying 100$/month for one device people expect a solution.

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997

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