AT&T's 3G coverage discrepancies (updated 3x)

Like a lot of people I purchase an iPhone 3G yesterday, and couldn't wait to begin accessing the Internet at 3G speeds from my phone. Before I purchased mine, I dutifully checked AT&T's coverage viewer Web page (www.

The truth about AT&TÂ’s 3G coverage

Like a lot of people I purchase an iPhone 3G yesterday, and couldn't wait to begin accessing the Internet at 3G speeds from my phone. Before I purchased mine, I dutifully checked AT&T's coverage viewer Web page (www.wireless.att.com/coverageviewer/) to see if I had coverage at my home.

Since I work from home, having 3G coverage (like phone coverage) is crucial. Those of you that read my stuff know that AT&T's mobile phone reception is horrible where I live, prompting me to carry another phone 24/7.

Anyway, back to 3G. The AT&T coverage viewer for my area shows edge to edge royal blue (pictured below), which if you read the legend, means "3G/Mobile Broadband." Unfortunately, it's edge to edge EDGE, with nary a bit of this elusive "3G" coverage that AT&T promises – at least in and around my house and the couple of other areas that I've tried.

AT&TÂ’s 3G coverage discrepancies
And I'm not the only one. Others are reporting that AT&T's 3G coverage viewer is an outright lie, with no 3G signal where AT&T says there is.

I've driven around my community seeking where my best 3G connectivity can be found. According to AT&T customer support the coverage maps are accurate, but according to my findings in my 5 mile circle - They lie.

So what to do? If you purchased a 3G iPhone – and the requisite US$10 per month premium for 3G data – and there's no coverage where AT&T says there is, are you eligible to return your phone for a full refund? Will AT&T be offering a US$20 EDGE only data plan if 3G isn't available?

An AT&T spokesperson said that there are "Lots of things can affect the 3G" and that it's tough to speak about it in the abstract" and recommended that I pursue the matter further with AT&T Wireless customer support (800 331-0500, press o, then 1).

Is 3G available around you? What does the coverage viewer say?

Update: After a lengthy phone call with AT&T technical support they told me that they're looking into the problem with the 3G coverage in my area. I had one small glimmer of hope after the rep suggested a soft reset of my iPhone (hold the sleep and home buttons until the phone powers off). After doing this I briefly saw the 3G icon light up on my phone (in my back yard) but it was gone 30 seconds later, never to return. Needless to say, I'm severely disappointed given the "full" 3G coverage that AT&T promised in my area. The AT&T coverage viewer borders on fraud.

Update 2: Kenn Marks offers what I think is a reasonable solution: "I feel AT&T should provide EDGE service plans to 3G iPhone buyers who live or work in non-3G areas. Then if the phone is used over 50% on a 3G network for two consecutive months then the rate plan becomes a full fledged 3G plan. Or AT&T could offer $15/month rebates each month until 3G monthly data usage exceeds 50% for that month."

Update 3 (17 July): AT&T contacted me back about my complaint about the lack of 3G in my area and the tech noted that my area only had -99db of 3G coverage, which she agreed is weak, and she mentioned that a new cell site (with 3G) was coming online in my area on 19 August 2008. So I guess that I'm in a holding pattern for another month.

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