AT&T's "problem" customers get the blame

Fortune Magazine swallows the AT&T pitch hook, line and sinker in a story titled "Bandwidth hogs — iPhones and other smartphones." Writer Jon Fortt dishes up a steaming dish of bull shoveled straight out of AT&T PR:Now the wireless providers hawking those Internet-enabled mobile devices are experiencing the digital equivalent of being proprietors of an all-you-can-eat buffet: It seems like the perfect business until the sumo wrestlers show up.

Fortune Magazine swallows the AT&T pitch hook, line and sinker in a story titled "Bandwidth hogs — iPhones and other smartphones." Writer Jon Fortt dishes up a steaming dish of bull shoveled straight out of AT&T PR:

Now the wireless providers hawking those Internet-enabled mobile devices are experiencing the digital equivalent of being proprietors of an all-you-can-eat buffet: It seems like the perfect business until the sumo wrestlers show up.

Well, forgive us, AT&T, for buying your dog food. And, yes, I do hold telecom carriers to the promises they make. I only seem to pick on AT&T because I am a customer who has covered the company through years of over-promising and frequent under-delivery. AT&T has been selling its 3G services for years and only now is claiming it can't make an adequate profit (because, get set for the PR spin: AT&T is positioning to raise prices in this Fortune article).

Unfortunately, the reporter didn't think to check into AT&T's claims by, for example, comparing AT&T's assertions that users are overtaxing its 3G network to the Federal Communications Commission's definition of 3G networks, the spectrum for which the agency freed up to serve data-intensive applications for mobile handsets: "Key features of 3G systems are a high degree of commonality of design worldwide, compatibility of services, use of small pocket terminals with worldwide roaming capability, Internet and other multimedia applications, and a wide range of services and terminals."

Specifically, the carriers asked for the bandwidth in exchange for: Fixed and variable rate bit traffic; Bandwidth on demand; Asymmetric data rates in the forward and reverse links; Multimedia mail store and forward; Broadband access up to 2 Megabits/second (my iPhone 3G typically delivers about 700 Kbps throughput, not 2 Mbps). Customers haven't even got MMS on the iPhone, but AT&T is angling to justify higher prices well before it delivers improved network service.

AT&T's CTO, John Donovan, is quoted saying "3G networks were not designed effectively for this kind of usage." Not much of a CTO, if you ask me, unless CTO is an acronym for "Liar." Mr. Donovan, please read the FCC's definitions of 3G technology, review AT&T's own promotional materials, and answer one question: Why does AT&T promise all these '3G' features and services if its network cannot deliver them? If your network cannot provide 3G services, don't charge as though they do. I get a bill for 3G services every month.

The next section of the article, which labels the top five percent of data plan users as "problems," according to a remark attributed to AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, sets the stage for price increases for 3G, because "4G systems won't be available for years." That AT&T would describe its most active users as "problems" is ludicrous, but the complete lack of any alternative perspective on the question in the article is outrageous.

The problem lies with AT&T, not its customers.