AT&T: Does it deserve all of the abuse?

AT&T: Does it deserve all of the abuse?

Summary: AT&T has received a lot of abuse for iPhone preorders, the iPad security breach, tiered data plans and network quality. Is AT&T getting enough abuse, too much or not enough?


AT&T has had a dreadful few weeks. It has taken flack for going with tiered data plans, an iPad security breach and the inability to field overwhelming demand for Apple's iPhone 4. Once that smoke clears you can go back to complaining about dropped calls on the iPhone. Does AT&T really deserve all of the arrows in its back?

Beating up on AT&T has been way too easy of late. So let's play Monday morning contrarian for giggles. Perhaps AT&T shouldn't be on the receiving end of all the shrapnel it has been getting.

OK, you can stop laughing now, but there's something to the argument. As a mobile industry observer, I can't wait to see the iPhone go to Verizon---something that has been rumored forever. Why? I want to see if AT&T's network really stinks. It's quite possible that AT&T has merely been the canary in the data usage barrage coal mine. AT&T is just on the bleeding edge of wireless networks that can't hang with data demand. Maybe none of the networks can handle the iPhone.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Let's tackle the moving AT&T parts one by one. Tiered data plans: AT&T recently moved to capped data plans. We all know the details by now. It's $15 for 200MB and $25 for 2GB. Go over those data caps and it will cost you extra. Fans of unlimited data plans freaked. What about my streaming of Pandora all day they asked? What about World Cup soccer streaming? I want my mobile TV, they cried. Well folks, you knew the caps were going to come. Carriers either put the unlimited data caps genie back in the bottle now or risk a real debacle when there's a wireless spectrum crunch. Tiered plans just make good business sense. AT&T took all the whoop ass, but now Verizon Wireless appears to be ready to follow on data plan caps. Now everyone will follow.

AT&T's systems blew up from iPhone 4 orders. There are also questions about Apple's IT performance in this one too, but guess who is getting shot? AT&T of course. Now you can question the planning on this one, but 600,000 pre-orders represent a lot of demand. Who plans for a launch like that? Even Piper Jaffray Gene Munster was predicting 1 million iPhone 4s over a few days. That target will be handily beat. Now analysts are overshooting to the upside on iPhone 4 unit shipments. Jeffrey Fidacaro, an analyst with Susquehanna Financial, said in a research note:

Given the size of the iPhone 4 pre-order and our analysis of the expected upgrade cycle, particularly the remaining 3G users, we believe the full launch weekend of June 24-27 is shaping up to potentially be a 2 million-3 million iPhone event, about 2-3x higher than the one million units sold over the first three days for both the 3GS and 3G launches.

So AT&T failed to predict never-seen-before demand for a new phone. Cut it some slack.

AT&T's network can't hang with data happy iPhone users. Here's one where we'll never know where the truth lies. AT&T's network takes the hit, but who would have predicted the data usage coming down the iPhone pike. Verizon Wireless says is can handle the iPhone, but how does it really know? AT&T was the guinea pig for an explosion of data. The funny part about all of this: If Verizon Wireless follows AT&T on data plan caps we may never know whether AT&T's network really stunk. Verizon Wireless has had 3 years to study the iPhone, model its data usage and make fun of AT&T. One other point: AT&T has been upfront about its network usage and has worked to fix it. If AT&T could get coverage in San Francisco and New York right it may shut up a lot of tech writers.

And finally there's the iPad data breach. AT&T was nailed and then threw gas on the fire by going after the folks that found the vulnerability. It's hard to defend AT&T on this one, but you can say that there was a much-needed dose of context needed when the news broke. Memo to AT&T: Don't apologize about a security breach and then try to downplay it because of malicious hackers.

Final score: 3-1. Out of the four things that have made AT&T a pinata you can argue three of them are a bit overblown. Your turn: Is AT&T getting enough abuse, too much or not enough?

[poll id="128"]

Topics: Smartphones, Hardware, iPhone, Mobility, AT&T

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  • RE: AT&T: Does it deserve all of the abuse?

    A&T never forgives its customers their "missteps". Why should we forgive them? We pay them for services promised. Ergo, they must deliver or return the money. Nothing else is acceptable.
    • RE: AT&T: Does it deserve all of the abuse?

      As a former Verizon customer I can tell you that Verizon was much worse than ATT.

      From the verbage in the blogs, does not look like they have improved much either...
      • RE: AT&T: Does it deserve all of the abuse?


        As a current customer of both Verizon and AT&T, I can tell you that AT&T sucks a$$.

        When I need to surf the web on the cell network, I grab the Verizon phone.

        When I need to make a phone call that won't cost me money, I grab the Verizon phone.

        When I want to listen to music, surf the web on *$ WiFi, or make an LD call out of the country for work, I grab the iPhone.

        If I'm going more than 25 miles outside a major metro area, I grab the Verizon phone. Why? Because I want to make phone calls that won't drop, and I travel light so I need the phone that works.
      • RE: AT&T: Does it deserve all of the abuse?

        As a Verizon Wireless customer since 2002. I would like to say that I have never had problems with Verizon & I think their customer service is the best. I have gone over on minutes & txts and they have back tracked me up to 2 months to adjust my charges. Love them.
    • Majority of the complaints are iPhone Users!

      @RickyF I have many friends in San Francisco and New York that never have any problems with dropped calls or any thing else using Nokia phones. But a lot of it could be due to the immensity of AT&T's users density in these specific areas.

      Where I live, we only get good service from AT&T and Verizon. I think AT&T is like MS Windows. If you the biggest, percentage wise you are bound to have the perception of more problems as compared to Linux or Mac OS-X. Same with Wireless Service Providers!

      If AT&T is bad, I just don't see where I live.

      Of the friends I know that do have dropped calls, they all have iPhones. So the problem is more likely something to do with the location of the antenna in iPhones or maybe it's Closed system. So you should consider if it's your phone or the carrier and your location. Best phones with least dropped calls per brand = Nokia w/ better solid base band radios and antenna designs!

      So NYC or SF + AT&T=Bad AT&T+iPhone=Worse!

      Verizon will not get iPhone if ever, till 2012 (5yr contract). The reason is Verizon killed their own Garden Walled environment and why would they allow Apple to secure hyper tunnel (garden walled) their 3G users right past them to make more money from their App Market? Especially now that Verizon is a part of WAC. An organization of 40 Wireless providers formed to kill closed App markets that don't allow them to compete with their own Market or share the wealth. Like Apple's App Market!

      Teaming Developers with these Wireless providers for an Open Market for all devices on these carriers to make money for them:

      btw... iPhone4 is a Samsung Galaxy S in disguise! :D Samsung contracted to have Intrinsity design Hummingbird A8 chip for their own phones first then they were approached by Apple to share in design & fabrication costs for their A4 chip. Same chip, same Domino Logic, most likely only custom Instruction Sets in the metal. Same GPU 90million Triangles per/sec capability and right for Apple to release first. Difference? Super AMOLED is next gen screen used in F-1 dash and steering wheel display and Ad screens embedded in carbon fiber body. Superior Contrast and visibility in direct sunlight! Galaxy S Wins against iPhone with Android! :D
      • RE: AT&T: Does it deserve all of the abuse?

        When you say things like
        "the problem is more likely something to do with the location of the antenna in iPhones or maybe it's Closed system." it drives me crazy because I can't believe you know what you are talking about.

        The reason so many Nokia phones don't drop calls is because so many of them are not smart phones, and not data-eaters, so they aren't even 3G.

        Guess what--when in a non-3G area like where my house is situated (EDGE-only), then iPhones DO NOT DROP CALLS.

        If you want, you can turn off 3G in iPhone settings and then chances of dropped calls are reduced to a statistical nil.

        Therefore, it's AT&T 3G coverage in metro areas that's the issue. Besides, the hardware was studied extensively more than a year ago, and the radio chip in iPhone is used by other manufacturers and performs no differently.

        You also think dropped calls on iPhone are a result of "maybe it's Closed system."

        I've asked you to do this before, so why don't you humor me now: exactly what do you mean by CLOSED SYSTEM? Please explain what YOU mean when you say "Walled Garden" and how YOU believe that relates to "hyper tunneling" (your words, not mine), and then explain to me how your perception of those things might relate to dropped calls. Please, I'd really like to know.
      • Garden Walled Networks are Filtered and Tunneled Networks!

        @lelanhendrix Antennas? ....if the older iPhones were so great, then why to they continued to drop calls on other wireless providers elsewhere in the World? Or why did Apple redesign the Antenna? Yes I know the base band radio chip is used in other phones, but why does it work on them and not iPhones?

        Nokia is known for having the better chips anyway. Here's some links about iPhones antenna problems. All the links you should need to justify the problem being in the iPhone itself:

        There are 100's of links dedicated to iPhone's poor antenna location and a problem with 3G to 2G failure to down switch in the firmware as a cause for dropped calls. Along with the discovery of an intermittent contact that can be fixed in 3G's iPhone's at least. It's not the antenna in this case though. Some people pull their iPhones apart and either remove the "Do Not Remove Screw" and stretch the copper flange to more securely contact the metal bezel manually or manipulate it into better contact. Some even solder it and this gives them 5 bars instead of none to 3 they were getting!

        How do you think a Walled Garden Network runs? Well it's in the OS firmware through use of filters, bypasses and locks on the device that are altered by jail breaking to permit non Apple native Cydia Apps to be installed. Jail breaking btw does not keep you from using App market. Unlocking is different and meant to allow you to operate your phone on a different wireless provider.

        Both major game consoles operate in Walled Garden environments. The OS contains software to firewall communications data inside the Walled Network, much like a hyper tunnel. Walled Garden is an analogy used in the telecommunications and media industries when referring to carrier or service provider control over applications and content/media on platforms (such as mobile devices) and restricting convenient access to non-approved applications or content. Sometimes walled and ceiling'd like Sony PSN or Xbox Live. Windows Phone 7 will also be Garden Walled.

        Generally, a walled garden refers to a closed or exclusive set of information services provided for users. This is in contrast to providing consumers open access to the applications and content or off network use even.

        So what I'm suggesting is that iPhones in the past have poorly designed Walled Garden firmware that does not switch between 3G to 2G Edge properly. Then this causes many of the disconnects and why when you manually switch 3G off it works without dropping calls! :D
      • RE: AT&T: Does it deserve all of the abuse?

        @i2fun@... Thank you for the response, and the links are some good reading.

        I still have the impression though that the users in other parts of the world are reporting far fewer dropped calls than our domestic AT&T users.
  • RE: AT&T: Does it deserve all of the abuse?

    They have been GREEDY too long to ever forget or forgive
    • Because, of course, we all know

      that you wanting to get as much wireless service as possible while paying as little as possible is totally altruistic and selfless.
    • Honestly, America must have a 3rd world mobile infrastucture!

      @terryzx <br>I hear all these complaints about blaming one or another provider for dropped calls and techno issue, and I shake my head! The "Global Leader" in your own eyes (and in scary reality on so many levels), but you bicker and squabble over which provider crashes less!<br><br>Here in Australia, it really doesn't matter which provider you choose, almost ANY mobile phone (that's cellphone for the Yanks)/smart-phone should handle its own, no matter the choice of carrier.

      As to Apple [b]stupidly[/b] locking their devices to a single carrier; in Australia (as with MOST of the developed world) they were prevented from doing so by Federal (anti-competitive) statutes, so we never had to deal with this cr@p. As such, we all get to sit back and laugh. Don't like the current situation? How about you get of your collective butts and take it to your local representatives and scream out for a change of policy... change the laws and you change the situation once and for all.
      • RE: AT&T: Does it deserve all of the abuse?

        @kaninelupus: actually, about half of the Third World has better service than we do.
      • RE: AT&T: Does it deserve all of the abuse?

        @kaninelupus anti-competitive statutes? Is this predicated on the same notion of no-choice for all?
        UL Rider
  • RE: AT&T: Does it deserve all of the abuse?

    You reap what you sow. AT&T and Apple will get their just desserts sooner or later.
  • RE: AT&T: Does it deserve all of the abuse?

    Way too much of what are faults with the iPhone gets put on AT&T. Many people with other phones on AT&T don't experience the dropped calls or lack of service that iPhone users do. Of course, it has to be AT&T's fault because mighty Apple can do no wrong (*cough* Newton *cough* Cube).
    • Anyone who blames Apple gets sued by Apple.

      Look at what happened to Ellen Degeneres for making a funny spoof of the iPhone commercial:

      Apple's lawyers were on the phone to her before the end of the day. :(
      John Zern
    • RE: AT&T: Does it deserve all of the abuse?

      I have a Blackberry with AT&T and a Windows Mobile with Verizon in Charleston, SC and can confirm, AT&T coverage for both voice and data sucks compared to Verizon. I live and work in a heavily populated area and for the past three years, have had the same dead spot (near an International Airport) on my way home. I guess AT&T has been working to correct the problem because now instead of one dropped call, I now have three on my < 15 minute drive home.
      • RE: AT&T: Does it deserve all of the abuse?

        You have a 15 minute drive home? put the phone down and drive. then you can complain about the service from your house.
      • RE: AT&T: Does it deserve all of the abuse?

        @michael.francisco@... I have actually noticed better quality calls here in Chicago (must be using better echo cancellation) but not less dropped calls. As a consultant, it's not unusual to pop in a bluetooth and finish a call on the 22 minute ride home and still make it to the kid's sporting event. While "put the phone down and drive" is appropo to those in a 9-5, flipping burgers and living in mom's basement existance, in the world of 'now doing the job of two people', phone communications is a critical part of getting the job done on time and right, the first time. The ARPU shows that, the rates reflect that, and so should the service quality.
      • RE: AT&T: Does it deserve all of the abuse?

        I have a 3GS and a Samsung Epix (live in Los Angeles - travel a lot). The 3GS drops frequently while the Epix seldom. My biggest complaint is that both will say full bars and the 3GS will drop. This leads me to think the issue is in the iPhone, not on ATT.

        btw: the 3G was worse than the 3GS. and my phone before the Epix was a Blackjack - great phone and great calls.

        End of day when it comes to dropped calls for iDevices, I lean toward the fault laying in Apples courtyard, not ATT's.