AT&T, iPhone, Data Limits: Will Data Offset Trades Be Next?

AT&T, iPhone, Data Limits: Will Data Offset Trades Be Next?

Summary: Got an iPhone? Do you use it? Do you want to pay more for that privilege? AT&T may move that way but it's not getting a lot of sympathy. See what the Chicago Tribune and The Standard have to say.


The Chicago Tribune posted a compelling graphic this morning on the front page of its Business Section. It said that:

- “one laptop with a mobile broadband card typically uses as much data as” - “15 smart phones (ex. iPhone, BlackBerry) Or - “450 standard cell phones”

The accompanying article described how tiered pricing or caps on downloads may need to be implemented. Why does AT&T need to do this? As the article says: “3 percent of iPhone users account for 40 percent of traffic”. Interestingly, it’s AT&T that is talking up this problem. The same AT&T that got the exclusive deal to carry the iPhone in the United States is carping because people actually use it.

AT&T’s goal in all of this usage education seems perplexing. It’s also causing unexpected negative PR. The Standard today ran a story simply titled: “AT&T: Strictly for Losers”. It seems The Standard isn’t too sympathetic with the AT&T problem. That article also goes further talking about the Verizon vs. AT&T battle over 3G coverage. The Standard has Verizon winning this one – and I’d agree. Even my own teenager concluded that the Luke Wilson ads for AT&T were about coverage in general, not 3G coverage.

Looking at this in total, AT&T seems upset that:

- people figured out their 3G network isn’t as extensive as a competitor’s - their network is unprepared for the demands put upon it by the exclusive iPhone customer base they so definitely wanted and, - their already high pricing may have to go higher - customers are getting wise to the above

I feel for the AT&T PR team. They’re trying to spin this but it’s not working. The only thing this PR team could get to worsen matters is to have Tiger Woods endorse their new data plans.

Going forward, instead of asking its customers for more money, maybe AT&T could improve its network to support the iPhone customers it has. Or, AT&T should instead permit its customers to trade data plan offsets. If businesses can do this for carbon emissions, why can’t cell customers trade their unused data downloads in an open market? Oh, now I know why AT&T won’t permit this: they wouldn’t make any money from it. Back to the drawing board….

Topics: Smartphones, Hardware, iPhone, Mobility, AT&T, Wi-Fi


Brian is currently CEO of TechVentive, a strategy consultancy serving technology providers and other firms. He is also a research analyst with Vital Analysis.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Stupid marketing

    EDGE is technically a 3G technology, but AT&T wanted to brand their second generation 3G technology "3G," so they didn't bother with EDGE. The real truth is that AT&T has 3G coverage almost everywhere they have service, but it is just faster in some places for some devices. AT&T just painted themselves in a corner from a marketing perspective.
  • RE: AT&T, iPhone, Data Limits: Will Data Offset Trades Be Next?


    Here I sit in the middle of New York City. I have a full bars on my AT&T phone. Oh, I only have 1 bar. No...nevermind, I now have full bars again. When I do get a call it either:

    a> Never connects to the other person
    b> Connects, but is so crappy you can't understand anything.
    c> Connects and stays connected.

    I'd say C happens...maybe 1/3 of the time.

    This is in addition to my AT&T laptop card, which connects every time...but alas, doesn't download data. Can't even browse to AT&T is about to lose an aircard customer.

    This is different than when I was here a year ago. Things seem to me to be getting worse for AT&T...not better.

    Any carrier that achieves this poor of results in what arguably can be considered THE AT&T captal of the world (New York of all use of the phone system is CRITICAL here) is truely deserving of their bottom-feeder ratings. They suck. I don't know how to put it any simpler.

    They can talk all they want about their efforts...but until they can provide a MINIMAL accetable service they don't have a leg to stand on. Their efforts are not adequete. I don't care that they say they deployed thousands of new towers...I just care that my phone doesn't work. AT&T...PLEASE stop telling me why your service is bad and just FIX it. Please.
    • Ain't it Funny?

      Bad service in NYC but out here in the sticks, an hour south of Dallas (don't ask you never heard of the place), 5 bars of 3G, never a dropped call, excellent data speeds.

      Actually since since ATT's headquarters is in Dallas its become the center of the ATT universe and service in and around the area is pretty good.
  • Operation Chokehold December 18

    On Friday, December 18, at noon Pacific time, we will attempt to overwhelm the AT&T data network and bring it to its knees. The goal is to have every iPhone user (or as many as we can) turn on a data intensive app and run that app for one solid hour. Send the message to AT&T that we are sick of their substandard network and sick of their abusive comments. THe idea is we?ll create a digital flash mob. We?re calling it in Operation Chokehold. Join us and speak truth to power!
  • RE: AT&T, iPhone, Data Limits: Will Data Offset Trades Be Next?

    Your Ass A Lie At&t is way Better. And who thinks of traffic bitch.
  • RE: AT&T, iPhone, Data Limits: Will Data Offset Trades Be Next?