UPDATED: AT&T customers speak out over poor service

Following yesterday's piece on how the iPhone (or, more specifically, iPhone users) are strangling the AT&T network, I've been hit by a deluge of emails from customers giving me their side of the story.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

Following yesterday's piece on how the iPhone (or, more specifically, iPhone users) are strangling the AT&T network, I've been hit by a deluge of emails from customers giving me their side of the story.

It's not a pretty picture for AT&T. Here's just a small selection of quotes I received:

"I can't even get service at my own home."

"MY iPhone drops calls at least 5 times a day, sometimes 5 times on the same attempted conversation."

"I live in Boulder but feel like I live in the middle of Montana where I can only get service by hiking the local hill."

"I'm not happy with the dropped calls, and to make matters worse, I'm on a fringe area where I lose connection when inside my home."

"The AT&T network had problems long before the iPhone...."

"I routinely experience dropped calls and many audio break-ups especially when talking to my girlfriend when she is in NYC."

"My office is located in mid town Manhattan and reliability of iPhones is horrible.  The service is very poor and spotty."

"I too have an iPhone and frankly hate it, I don't get voice mails, text messages, etc for days. I love AT&T but is AT&T going to do anything for the iPhone consumer, ie discounts if they are having problems?"

"I have been a loyal customer of AT&T and Cingular for over ten years and sorry to say it is time to pay the $175 cancellation fee and move on to T-Mobile. I use this phone for business and just cannot put up with this crap any more."

"I am totally disgusted with ATT.  I cannot even use the phone in my house."

"Every problem your article described....I have experienced to the point of frustration."

They're not all negative, but I really had to look for these:

"I know that SF and other cities have problems, but my experience in LA is excellent -- better than I had with Verizon."

"I moved from an HTC Touch on Sprint to the iPhone 3GS on ATT and have never been happier."

If in under 24 hours I got such a response, AT&T must know what their customers think of their network. If AT&T customers are telling me their tales or woe, they're telling AT&T. If I were handcuffed to a two-year contract where I was paying big bucks (you can easily end up paying AT&T $150 a month), I'd be pretty emotional if I found out I was lumbered with the appalling levels of service that some folks seem to endure.

We know that AT&T will be spending a significant chunk of change on upgrading the network over the next year (the majority of the $18 billion network budget in fact), but it's hard to know if this will make any difference.  If the natural limits of unlimited data plan that iPhone users are now on is usage, then iPhone users will simply suck harder at the data teat. Also, AT&T will roll out multimedia messaging (MMS) on the iPhone on September 25th, and is under increasing pressure to allow data tethering, all of which will place untold pressure on the network.

My bet is that things won't improve much until the iPhone is opened out to other carriers and the load is spread more evenly.

[UPDATED: More comments flood in ...

"AT&T i-Phone service is lamentable. I also live in Boulder and barely get reception at home.  Worse than being in Montana, must be more like Moldavia."

"a doctor must be connected at all times.  it is especially troubling when voice mail arrives late, sometime several hours late."

"I guess misery loves company, but I'm still miserable!  I'm one of those non-iphone AT&T captives who can't get service anywhere."

"I have been a subscriber to Cingular/AT&T for 15 + years and have seen the quality of service significantly deteriorate  in the past three to four years."

"I was a 3G smartphone (Win Mobile) before the iPhone.  AT&T service was good except in areas with no towers.  Data service was blazing and phone service was consistently great (with IMHO the best sound quality around).  Then the iPhone happened.  I'm with you: AT&T hugemongously underestimated the effect on its network.  Since iPhone, I have been unable to use my AT&T phone anywhere there is a large number of people (e.g. college football games - Knoxville and Pasadena being two examples)."

"I have a Bold9000 RIM Blackberry and my service mirrors that of the iPhone users.  I have a hard time keeping a connection in my house (less than 1/2 mile from a tower on I10), and OFTEN I get a call dropped after spending about ten minutes talking -- seems almost to be an automatic disconnect???"

"I have one of the original Iphones and it works great but AT&T's service has gone downhill in the last 12 mos."

"Dropped calls, lousy cell service, three phone replacements in three months, all in Northern Virginia. Worst cell service in 25 years."

"AT&T was so bad where I was living in SLC that dropped their service."

"I moved to ATT from Verizon just for the iPhone. I am a mac-centric operation, just shut down my last PC laptop. I will "jump ship" in a heart beat and pay to exit ATT and go back to Verizon. I kept my Verizon wireless card to maintain a connection the carrier. I think ATT will get "relief" not from doing a better job but from their customers leaving the service."

"My wife has an iphone and I have a Blackberry, a friend texted us the same message at the same time, the BB got it in 2 min the iphone got it 13 hours later."

"This is in the following areas.  Phoenix Metro, Chicago Metro and Northern IL.  In these three areas (as well as commuting between them by car) I have found the AT&T service to be the same as Verizon. I have had no dropped calls to date (after 1 month on the iPhone) but have had a couple of calls with poor VQ.  But I had that on Verizon as well."

"The echo...echo...echo. Not long after buying an iPhone, I called a business associate. The first thing he said is "Oh, I see you got the iPhone." I asked how he knew. "You're echoing. Everyone who talks on an iPhone knows they echo." Apparently, iPhone users are so abused by AT&T's poor service that it's just become accepted."

"I was so happy to read this piece on how rotten the service is with AT&T on my iPhone.  I also cannot get service in my own home!!!"

"Be sure to hook into your local WIFI network and you may not have as many issues. Don't rely on the 3G at home or at the office. It's better to just utilize your LAN. ATT offers open WiFi access to iPhone customers in tons of public places, including airports, coffee shops - to ease the load on the 3G side. I'd say, take advantage of that as much as you can."

"My experience with AT&T relative to the iphone has been terrible.  Although I have been a long time (25+ years) customer, AT&T refused to give me the discounted rate when I upgraded to the iphone 3g 2 months before my contract was complete.  My iphone service is slow, and I have little to no signal on the first floor of my home.  It's very expensive, and I would gladly switch to another service provider."

"my entire family is on AT&T with iphones.  we love it and have no problems, whether in northern VT or Long Island.  The reception is superior to Verizon."

"I live in Miami and recently made the switch from Sprint to AT&T just to get the Iphone...Even though I love the Iphone the service at AT&T is insulting to customer's. In my work place I get spotty signal within the same building, I am constantly on 1 bar EDGE when sitting in my desk...then if I go to he bathroom I get full 3G. The service feels the same all over Miami, it appears to be random."

"ATT treats their (me) customers like crap.  I feel like every time I call they have no idea what they are doing, procedures change depending who you are speaking with and for the most part you the customer are guilty and have to prove your innocence.  I have cancelled every ATT service I had, cable, home phone, internet.  Unfortunately I cannot cancel the cell service even though it stinks, the iphone is that great."

"absolutely horrible service. the moment there is another possibility i am switching. several bills in the thousands of dollars for using the iphone abroad and the worst possible service with virtually every call guaranteed to be dropped"

"I'm in Santa Fe and voice mails come in hours and even a day after calls are registered."

"AT&T's network was spotty prior to the iPhone launch, and they've had overload  problems for more than two years."

"I love my iPhone and I love AT&T. I've been with them since they were AT&T before they became Cingular, then went back to AT&T - that's over a decade."

"After 8 years of the best service mine has gone into the toilet, my neighbors and associates all over Colorado Springs report the same degrading service."

"I have had ATT Wireless/Cingular/the new att for 5 years and was very happy.  I just moved from Boulder to Austin and have continuous problems. Some days its fine, some days its completely unusable."

"Seems like I'm in the minority, unless it's just the squeaky wheels you're hearing from.  I have NEVER had a problem with dropped calls or with service in most areas at all.  AT&T's customer service has been terrific to work with, too."

"I myself have experienced the degenerate type service that AT&T offers. I have had all three iterations of iPhone and have been experiencing dropped calls like crazy, in all markets, - NY, NJ and Charlotte, NC. Right now I cannot get service while inside my house.  In addition, I have not been able to get Visual VM, regular VM or even a notification of any VM received."

"I had to write after seeing all the comments. I live in the city of Chicago and I can't get reception in my own house! Just last night a coworker left me a voicemail but since I had no signal I could not hear it. I had to get in my car and drive several blocks away to listen to my voicemail. I love my iPhone but will leave AT&T the minute I can."

"Tell everyone to stop complaining about service until they actually shop for service and not their flashy phones!"

"I had such rotten experiences with AT&T. Dropped calls (record of 10 dropped in 25 minutes to the same person) late or not receiving text messages and horrible reception, even in my own house! Their customer service representatives are completely incompetent and I got sick of dealing with them. I hated their "service" so much that I paid a hefty early termination fee just to get away from them! I'm much happier with T-Mobile now than I ever was with AT&T!"

"It has been interesting to read your articles about AT&T's wireless service.  My brother had AT&T for years, but moved to an area just north of Denver where the coverage was abysmal. After months of complaining and promises he switched service, but without any penalty.  He simply pointed out that he had been paying for service that he was not getting and pointed out the promises that their representatives had been making for months.  After being steadfast in holding onto his money, and several escalations, he made his point and switched at no cost.  (Even got to keep his number somehow.)"

"Perhaps one of my biggest disappointments in AT&T has been problems with 911 service.  I'm more proactive than a lot of people in reoporting problems to help clean up my neighborhood, and of course when I need 911 the most urgently, it's more frustrating than anything to sit and watch your phone say 'calling' for minutes straight while you wait for an emergency call to go through."

"I love at&t and my iPhone.  The customer service is wonderful and the data service is great."

"After signing my 2 year contract, discovered no service at my house. Tried to work around with Skype, but at&t has done all it can to supress its functioning. Love the iphone, hate the lousy coverage of At&t. Same experience with getting voicemails (days, sometimes a week, after the fact!) and dropped calls."

"I get horrible service. Both at my work and my home I am lucky to have 1 or 2 bars. It is so bad sometimes that I cannot even send a text message....pathetic. I call them about every two weeks and they tell me they are in the process of upgrading their towers. This has been going on for over 10 months."

"I'm in Cumberland, MD 21502 which is Western Maryland. In our area we don't even have 3G yet and we don't know when it might come. However, we do experience the same problems. Phone (any phone, in my case a BB 8310) shows full signal but we are not able to place calls. The message "connection failed" seems to be my best friend. Dropped calls are the norm, sometimes after just 2 or 3 minutes. AT&T service is terrible and I'm ready to pay the $175 cancelation fee."

"Never,ever, again. The worst. Tin cans connected by string would be more reliable. Calling At&T is not helpful nor is the website. Stores are staffed by individuals who appear to be put out by customers asking what are evidentially mundane questions of them. Never. I can't get out of this contract, but have already acquired a Blackberry with Verizon service which is fab."

"I was one of the first to have an iPhone. Thought bad service was due to phone, replaced it x3.  AT&T came out to my house; told me there was nothing they could do, and allowed me to waive the 175 bucks.  Went to verizon with a BB Storm. I hate the phone but at least my calls and emails are ALWAYS THERE."

"I am a high school teacher and I asked my classes about their phone service. The students with AT&T had the most complaints saying things like their phones don't work in the school cafeteria or gym. One girl said this 'my iPhone is just an iPod. I can listen to music but can't make a call when I need too.'"

"Ever since the iPhone came out I was obsessed.  I waited for the 3G before i finally jumped in ... I LOVE the phone.  it's the coolest piece of technology I've ever owned.  It's unfortunate that it is tied to the worst cellular carrier in the US.  All the reports you find on the web are true for me, and I live in Omaha, NE (A very suburban, spread out city).  Texts inbound and outbound can take days, I often get voice mails weeks after the fact.  As soon as a viable alternative exists, I will be jumping ship."

"I can't begin to describe how fed up I am with AT&T's shotty service.  In WI, only 2 cities have 3G access (Madison and Milwaukee).  Anything north of those cities and you can forget about 3G entirely.  Also, in my apartment, I get one bar constantly, if not "no service," but if I go 100 yards south, I get full bars. The minute I can jump ship to another carrier, I'm going to, that's for sure."

"I am so relieved to find out that I'm not alone. I've been with Sprint for 4 years and finally had to get a phone that would help me to conduct business quickly and efficiently. I tried the HTC Touch, several of the new Blackberries and finally gave in and tried the IPhone. Long story short the IPhone was a no brainer but I started dropping calls the very day I got it. I thought it was me or a bad area.  Then after two weeks I took the phone back and the rep said it might be the sim card. She replaced it but one hour later I dropped two more calls to the same person in 10 minutes flat.  I make about 25 -30 calls a day and I drop at least 3 calls a day minimum!  No exaggeration.  I can't wait til Sprint gets the IPhone because I'll take the early term penalty to get some quality phone service since I have to keep the IPhone, it's that compellingly good as a business tool."

"I started a new job that switched to AT&T for the iPhone and it's "capabilities", now they regret getting rid of their blackberries and Verizon. I can't even stay on I-80 between Omaha and Lincoln w/o dropping a call. HORRIBLE!! Even when I traveled to NYC and in some airports reception is spotty at best, data service drags and it's not worth it. Glad I kept my personal Alltel phone with excellent reception."

"I stay with AT&T because of the iPhone, which I got because my BlackJack kept dropping calls and the handsets needed replacing under warranty every 3 months. Being on a conference call is a joke. Other folks on the call know that I will drop at least three times during the discussion. I fail to receive calls, I fail to receive voice mails. Service levels are abominable. I wish I could drop AT&T."

Keep em coming (or via Twitter)!]

[UPDATE: I think that it's worth highlighting that the only company representative who has been in touch with me so far wanting to reach out to dissatisfied users who have been in touch with me has been from Blackberry/RIM.]

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