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AT&T Network Better Than You Think
December 13, 2009 9:15 AM   Subscribe

According to an article in yesterday's NY Times, AT&T's network is much better than our conventional wisdom (or Verizon's marketeers) thought. And, that perhaps the issue with iPhones and coverage is really the fault of the iPhone itself, not AT&T's network.
posted by Taken Outtacontext (119 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Fake Steve Jobs disagrees.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 9:20 AM on December 13, 2009 [16 favorites]


They say the AT&T service is great where the AT&T networks are -- which the Verizon commercials prove is just the metropolitan areas of the US. I wonder how Global Wireless Solutions decided AT&T was the best everywhere, when much of the US doesn't have AT&T towers; Root Wireless stuck to metro areas for their proof. You're outta luck if you're like me in flyover country -- people around here in Fargo lie and say they live in Minneapolis to get an iPhone (I wonder what they pay in roaming charges).
posted by AzraelBrown at 9:38 AM on December 13, 2009


FSJ pretty much nails it.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:38 AM on December 13, 2009


Pepsi Wireless?
posted by filthy light thief at 9:45 AM on December 13, 2009


3G Wireless enthusiast intercepts government secret radio band and uncovers secrets and scandals of deceitful type proportions.
posted by porn in the woods at 9:56 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Fake Steve Jobs: You’re in the business of selling bandwidth. That pipe is what you sell. Right now what the market is telling you is that you can sell even more! Lots more! Good Lord.

Er, has he forgotten that the iPhone deal is that they give unlimited bandwidth away for free?

(Or is this a joke at Real Steve's expense?)
posted by cillit bang at 9:56 AM on December 13, 2009


That's as may be, but AT&T's rates are still way too high for what you get.

Love my iPhone to death, but I am not coming back at the end of my contract.
posted by HostBryan at 9:58 AM on December 13, 2009


I think the AT&T commercial where they say, "We cover 97% of America," is damn funny, since they are pretty much saying, "There's large parts of this country where you ain't getting a fucking signal." Come back to me when you can say 100%.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:01 AM on December 13, 2009


Gonna go with the study over the blog written by a guy who calls himself "fake Steve Jobs."
posted by Ironmouth at 10:03 AM on December 13, 2009


I asked Ron Dicklin, chief technology officer at Root Wireless, how these results, showing AT&T as the clear leader, could be reconciled with the negative appraisal of Consumer Reports’ respondents. He explained that his company’s tests of AT&T’s data network were done with handsets other than the iPhone, which does not allow non-Apple programs like his to run in the background.

Have they not heard of jailbreaking? They need to port their app to the iPhone, and run it in the background on jailbroken ones, stat. The evidence cited is suggestive but not conclusive.

Also the article mentions no reason why the iPhone might be worse than other phones at handling network activity, which I'm curious about. Is that the price to be paid for such a sweet form factor?

FWIW, I've been happy with AT&T coverage here in Boston.
posted by A dead Quaker at 10:04 AM on December 13, 2009


He said that in the eyes of the consumer, “the iPhone has the nimbus of infallibility, ergo, it’s AT&T’s fault.” AT&T does not publicly defend itself because it will not criticize Apple under any circumstances, he said.

AT&T is just like MetaFilter!
posted by Artw at 10:06 AM on December 13, 2009 [6 favorites]


The NYT shill job is so much bullshit. I used to live in the middle of BFE that had an AT&T 3G network because of the nearby university. iPhone 3G Connectivity ROCKED.

Now I live in SF, in the middle of the city. iPhone 3G Connectivity SUCKS.

It's the network, not the phone.
posted by mistersquid at 10:17 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


cillit bang: "Er, has he forgotten that the iPhone deal is that they give unlimited bandwidth away for free?"

It's not free, it's OUTRAGEOUSLY overpriced, and the introduction of the iPhone led AT&T to significantly tighten up on arbitrary bandwidth use enforcement. I pay $15 for one DSL line and $30 for another; the my unlimited data smartphone plan all told is about $60 but advertised at $30 + $10.

I have had and used Treos on AT&T for years and once a year or so, they randomly cut off my data service for overuse, despite my having an unlimited data usage plan. They are thieves and liars and I look forward the crumbling of their empire with glee.
posted by mwhybark at 10:20 AM on December 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


@cillit bang: The point is that AT&T has users who are stretching the limits of AT&T's 3G network on an all-you-can-eat plan and improving the infrastructure to ensure that high-end users (which AT&T believes are "overusers") have a smooth experience is the right move for a company that supplies bandwidth.

If the aim of the all-you-eat plan is to get subscribers' money and cap the ones who actually use what they paid for (AT&T's goal) then you're really not in the business of selling pipe, which means you're in the way of technological improvement.

As an example, imagine what the Internet would be like if everyone had 1990s-era AOL "unlimited" plans and AOL was threatening its most active users with bandwidth caps. No YouTube, no HULU, no more nothing.

More simply put: in the US, AT&T and other wireless telcos are holding back the development of wireless Internet.
posted by mistersquid at 10:25 AM on December 13, 2009 [7 favorites]


Oh, okay. That's a relief, 'cuz I thought the network was the problem. Glad we got that sorted out!

/goes back to watching iPhone grind away, trying to check email for two minutes and counting.
posted by Ian A.T. at 10:32 AM on December 13, 2009


Oddly enough, here in the Twin Cities my wife and I switched to iPhones because the Nokia handsets we were using were getting cut off at least once per call. Every goddamn time it happened I got angrier and angrier. Since we changed to the iPhones, we haven't dropped a single call. We're only one data point, to be sure, but there's something going on with the network...
posted by caution live frogs at 10:34 AM on December 13, 2009


While we're on the anecdata, my dad in laws place just outside of Bend, OR is an iPhone blackspot - service just disapears as soon as as you take the road out of town, and returns instantly once you go back the other way. My brother in-laws phone, similarly AT&T but not an iPhone, is unaffected.
posted by Artw at 10:41 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


And then there was the period of time when the phone would actually *hang* from time to time. I really can't think of another phone that people would put up with that shit from.

I love the iPhone, it's a great iPhone. But yeah, not entirely convinced it's that great as a just a phone.
posted by Artw at 10:43 AM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


improving the infrastructure to ensure that high-end users (which AT&T believes are "overusers") have a smooth experience is the right move for a company that supplies bandwidth

Given the surely astronomical cost of providing any tangible improvement in bandwidth, I can't imagine it's the right business decision at all.
posted by cillit bang at 10:44 AM on December 13, 2009


I'd think there was something to this except that I took my exact same useless-as-a-phone iPhone from San Francisco to Europe. Where it worked great. (Except for the whole outrageous international roaming charges.) So unless someone's claiming there's something specifically wrong with the US GSM radio, it's bullshit.

I have to give AT&T damage control credit, between this article and the travesty that is Mark the Spot they're fighting a decent countersurge against the increasingly public calls for Apple to include some other carrier in the US. That iPhone trouble reporting app is particularly offensive. What, AT&T lacks the ability to monitor network errors in its own cell towers?

What we really need is a version of Mark the Spot with public data. I've actually got a design for that all mapped out, but I don't know enough to build the iPhone app.
posted by Nelson at 10:47 AM on December 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm sorry, but you can't just say 'iPhone’s “air interface,” the electronics in the phone that connect it to the cell towers, had shortcomings that “affect both voice and data”' without some technical justification. I know the iPhone isn't perfect, because I saw the difference in connection quality between the 1.0 and 2.0 firmware. After that upgrade, I've never had a dropped call.

However, the bandwidth I get from the ATT network varies considerable. It's not consistently good or consistently bad, it goes from great to miserable depending on location and time of day. That to me, is a sign of a network problem, not a phone problem, especially since the phone's data quality is wonderful on WiFi.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 10:48 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


AzraelBrown: "They say the AT&T service is great where the AT&T networks are -- which the Verizon commercials prove is just the metropolitan areas of the US. I wonder how Global Wireless Solutions decided AT&T was the best everywhere, when much of the US doesn't have AT&T towers; Root Wireless stuck to metro areas for their proof. You're outta luck if you're like me in flyover country -- people around here in Fargo lie and say they live in Minneapolis to get an iPhone (I wonder what they pay in roaming charges)."

They might pay nothing for roaming. I know I don't. I have the National 450 minute plan.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 10:50 AM on December 13, 2009


I'd think there was something to this except that I took my exact same useless-as-a-phone iPhone from San Francisco to Europe. Where it worked great.

Well, yeah, catching a signal in Europe is not going to be a hard task for any phone.
posted by Artw at 10:50 AM on December 13, 2009


Is this something that you'd need an iPhone to care about? Oh, wait, I do have an iPhone and guess what - still don't care. Service in and around Philly is just fine, thanks for asking. My biggest beef is the same as my beef with Comcast, which is that it is overpriced.
posted by fixedgear at 10:57 AM on December 13, 2009


Verizon is massively over-priced, their customer service is aggressively unhelpful, and their damn phones can get service, I kid you not, on a train moving through an underground tunnel and in the basement of a bank. (I browsed MeFi without a hiccup from both locations.) Based on my experiences with the company over the past two months, I feel confident in saying I can get 3G reception through five feet of radioactive lead in the middle of Narragansett Bay.

I have had serious problems with AT&T and Sprint finding a damn voice signal in the middle of the city or at highway speeds, nevermind data out in the sticks. So, while Sprint is nice and cheap and easy to work with, and while AT&T has a lot of phone options, I bought a Droid and switched to Verizon. Before the Droid, Verizon wasn't worth considering, as their phone offerings were generally terrible and outdated. Now I have something that's 80% as good as an iPhone, and 70% good as the Palm Pre (Ooooh, I went there! WebOS spanks the iPhone. Hard. Yes I did!), but the network is so far above and beyond, it's not really much of a contest.

Also, the Maps and SkyMap applications rule. (They need to work more on making the image viewers dock-friendly, tho.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:08 AM on December 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


All I know is that I've given up calling a friend of mine since he got an iPhone, I can't hear any thing he says and a ten minute conversation usually involves two or three dropped connections. It's just not worth the effort.
posted by octothorpe at 11:13 AM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm not much worried about AT&T's coverage inside the U.S. but CDMA phones like Verizon & Sprint simply don't work when you leave your own country, plus who likes being locked in. Ergo, AT&T and T-mobile are the only primary carriers in the U.S.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:58 AM on December 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's the phone. It's over-engineered and people think they actually need to use all of those ridiculous apps just because they exist. The nerds all want Star Trek equipment and lightning service in a world that is simply not there yet.

I knew it wasn't AT&T. Apple always goes for the nerdy "sci-fi" appeal, instead of making something that is compatible with current technology.
posted by Zambrano at 12:02 PM on December 13, 2009


Well, yeah, catching a signal in Europe is not going to be a hard task for any phone.

I had this funny idea that buying an iPhone in San Francisco and paying $90/month would mean that catching a signal in San Francisco would not be a hard task. It is, sadly, and the phone and data service are both terrible in SF. I went so far as to try to get a refund for the $30 data charge one month only to laughably be told by AT&T's customer service that they never have any network problem. Nice to hear their execs aren't bullshitting like that anymore.

There's a lot of coded messages in AT&T's recent rumblings. They know that Apple's about to boot them as the exclusive provider in the US, and they're not happy about it. Also they see how Apple has finally turned their cellular service into a purely commodity bandwidth provider. Apple finally broke the carrier/handset locked environment and it's got AT&T scared. Finally note de la Vega's specific mention of net neutrality. AT&T is really hoping that they can somehow keep making extra money off their network by selling better network experience to AT&T partners. They don't want to be stuck just selling plain Internet access. Too bad for them.

Zambrano: you can't be more wrong about "sci-fi". I'm usually quite critical of Apple, but the iPhone is a marvelous device. It's really transformative. Shame that they can't find a cellular data network that will serve it.
posted by Nelson at 12:09 PM on December 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


As an example, imagine what the Internet would be like if everyone had 1990s-era AOL "unlimited" plans and AOL was threatening its most active users with bandwidth caps. No YouTube, no HULU, no more nothing.

That actually happens a lot in other countries, like Australia, Canada, etc. On the other hand, if you look at South Korea everyone has fiber to their house. There's a huge difference in network connectivity around the world.
posted by delmoi at 12:25 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's the phone. . . . I knew it wasn't AT&T.

"The iPhone has crap RF and antenna technology" != "It's not AT&T's fault". It happens to be both. The iPhone has always been a very, very bad phone -- better since firmware updates, but still crap. That's why I carry both an iPhone (for fun) and a Verizon BB (for work). But until very recently I was an AT&T BB customer and the network was absolute crap on those devices as well. And when I say crap: the network dropped calls a good 30% of the time in the swampy backwaters of 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue in New York, 50 yards from Grand Central Station. If you cannot support a voice call there (to say nothing of a data connection) you don't have a network. You have a PR department.
posted by The Bellman at 12:30 PM on December 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


cjorgensen wrote: "Come back to me when you can say 100%."

You'll be switching to a satphone shortly, I take it? There is no network that covers the entirety of the US.

My personal experience with at&t has deteriorated significantly over the last year in the markets I'm in regularly. Lots more dropped calls, anyway. The data part still works great for me. And this is with good (radio-wise) Nokias, not some junky HTC or the iPhone. (which both have barely passable radios)

A dead Quaker wrote: "Also the article mentions no reason why the iPhone might be worse than other phones at handling network activity, which I'm curious about. Is that the price to be paid for such a sweet form factor?"

It could be poor antenna design, or it could just be the inherent handicap Apple gave itself by choosing Qualcomm for their WCDMA chipset. Their chipsets are demonstrably worse in sensitivity (at least in any real-world devices) and have a harder time maintaining calls during handovers.

As far as data pricing goes, I'm pretty happy with it where it stands. It's already light years ahead of most of the rest of the world, no matter which US carrier you are on. I find it mildly amusing that people expect low end DSL prices and mid-tier DSL speed on a wireless network that is inherently capacity limited. You pay for the scarcity and convenience.

If you'll look past your iPhones for a second, you'd notice that unlimited data from at&t for other phones is only $15 a month. I'm currently on a 2004ish data plan that gives me unlimited data, 1500 sms and 200 mms for $20 a month.

All that said, the wireless carriers are screwing people with their oligopoly, but more on the voice plan than the data side. Unless you're an iPhone user, but then iPhone users use far more data than non-iPhone users (even other smartphone users!), so it makes a certain amount of sense that they'd try to get y'all to pay more.
posted by wierdo at 12:34 PM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm hard-pressed to disagree with Gruber's take here. The Times article depends heavily on (seemingly unpublished) data from a private firm with a serious conflict of interest, weighing that against a ton of customer-experience research from one of the US's most important public-interest nonprofits, one that takes serious pains to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. And my own experience includes terrible AT&T/Cingular network performance, and good-to-excellent Verizon performance, with many non-iPhone phones as well. Like Gruber says, (a) where are the non-Apple phones that get such great data performance on AT&T's network, and (b) why doesn't the iPhone have any of these major problems outside the US? Ockham's Razor suggests where the problem lies.
posted by RogerB at 12:50 PM on December 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


(a) where are the non-Apple phones that get such great data performance on AT&T's network

What on earth does he know about that?

b) why doesn't the iPhone have any of these major problems outside the US?

It doesn't? It certainly sucks well enough on O2 in the UK.

Gruber in taking populist pro-Apple position shocker.
posted by cillit bang at 1:04 PM on December 13, 2009


RogerB: "why doesn't the iPhone have any of these major problems outside the US?"

Who says it doesn't? A co-worker just went from a terrible Samsung smartphone to an iphone as his work phone and was complaining that the reception was worse. If had various phones and all have had different reception abilities. Different antenna designs on handsets, different RF chipsets and software can all have a huge affect on the quality of reception, is it impossible that other phones may do this better than the iphone?

On my wife's iphone it is more firmware problems than outright reception problems. Once or twice a week her phone will show no reception and only rebooting it will get it to find a signal again.

Also, as wierdo says, there's some people here showing a pretty large lack of understanding of the difference in expense of providing 3G bandwidth versus DSL bandwidth.
posted by markr at 1:07 PM on December 13, 2009


is it impossible that other phones may do this better than the iphone?

Not at all. It's quite plausible that the iPhone's RF performance is not the best achieved by any phone ever. But that's not what I'd propose as the most likely cause for major network reliability problems in the middle of big cities, seemingly worsening in severity even as the hardware is updated several times.
posted by RogerB at 1:11 PM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Anecdote" is not the singular form of data, but:

The apartments at 1 West St in Manhattan's Financial District are an AT&T dead zone. I have tried to use an iPhone, a Nokia, and a 3G modem on the AT&T network there to no avail.

Verizon phones get strong signal there.

I find it odd that there would be *any* dead spots for AT&T on the island of Manhattan.

I was an iPhone enthusiast, but a couple of years on AT&T's network was enough for me. I got a Blackberry on Verizon in October and haven't looked back.
posted by enrevanche at 1:12 PM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


I was an iPhone enthusiast, but a couple of years on AT&T's network was enough for me. I got a Blackberry on Verizon in October and haven't looked back.

This.

Who cares what some metrics firm has "determined" about AT&T's network when this is the typical consumer experience? Without the majority of iPhone or even AT&T customers never experiencing enough problems with the network that they don't complain, it doesn't matter what the corporate PR department comes up with to "prove" that they're not sucking. Consumer Reports bases their article on customer feedback, not contrived tests, and it is the customer experience which reigns supreme.
posted by hippybear at 1:25 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm with fixedgear--I live in Philly and my iPhone service is just great. Yes, the bills are high, but guess what so are Verizon Wireless's bills (husband and daughter have that). Basically we spend more on phone service overall than we do on car insurance. Why? Because we can. We're tools that way.
posted by Peach at 1:45 PM on December 13, 2009


I'm not much worried about AT&T's coverage inside the U.S. but CDMA phones like Verizon & Sprint simply don't work when you leave your own country, plus who likes being locked in. Ergo, AT&T and T-mobile are the only primary carriers in the U.S.

It's hard to fathom how the biggest carrier in the US is CDMA. That's mind-boggling. It's even more mind-boggling to know that Canada now has twice as many GSM companies (with Bell and Telus having made the switch and Wind Mobile coming on board to accompany Rogers) as does the US, which has nearly ten times the population, and more than ten times the wireless customers, as Canada.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 1:51 PM on December 13, 2009


Y'know what? AT&T just released an app (sneer all you want) that lets one post instant feedback about dropped calls, etc. Sure, one person bitching about their living room probably will not convince them to build a new tower. But it looks like they are listening, or at least engaging n some great PR.

Basically we spend more on phone service overall than we do on car insurance.

If you knew what car insurance costs in the city you would know that this is serious ducats. It's much less in my gated suburban community (j/k).
posted by fixedgear at 1:58 PM on December 13, 2009


Hey, they'll put one in your living room! And charge you left right and center for the privelage....
posted by Artw at 2:02 PM on December 13, 2009


AT&T just released an app (sneer all you want) that lets one post instant feedback about dropped calls, etc.

I really don't get this. Doesn't AT&T already have this data?
posted by lalex at 2:03 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I would love to have a data phone of any sort, but never anticipate having one, as I live in the sticks and cannot see a wireless provider ever giving a crap about users in this situation. I can barely get actual cell service here, only in a certain part of the yard, and never while moving around. So, in sum, screw you guys. (Storms off.)
posted by maxwelton at 2:17 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


AT&T just released an app (sneer all you want) that lets one post instant feedback about dropped calls, etc

Yeah, I mentioned that above. Does that mean AT&T has no way to actually monitor dropped calls, etc from their own network equipment? If so, then how can they claim their network works at all? My guess is the app is just a feel good thing to let users react somehow to the bad service. Or else some customer service department at AT&T has no access to the data from the network ops guys and so they're collecting it outside. Either way, yeah, I'm sneering. At $90/month I'm sneering.

We really need a version of this app where the outage data is public.
posted by Nelson at 2:21 PM on December 13, 2009


Crowdsourcing is awesome unless done by evil corporations.
posted by Artw at 2:23 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm no cellphone expert, but my extremely weak understanding is that they share, right? So maybe AT&T's data (of course they have tons) says all is well, but maybe everybody who lives in 19012 jumps on a Verizon tower. Maybe they can't see that? And my submitting a bug report helps? I dunno. Maybe my expectations are lowered.
posted by fixedgear at 2:45 PM on December 13, 2009


I see what you did there, porn in the woods.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:50 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I can watch the YouTubes on my Blackberry on T-Mobile's network without much fuss. Poop on you.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:51 PM on December 13, 2009


Daring Fireball calls bullshit.

Gotta say, between CR's polls and that the problem has only gotten worse with each new generation of iPhone and increasingly poor performance of AT&T, the fault almost certainly lies with AT&T.

Also, FSJ friggin' nails it. Every damn tech company needs to read that and live it.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:51 PM on December 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


All I know is that I've given up calling a friend of mine since he got an iPhone, I can't hear any thing he says and a ten minute conversation usually involves two or three dropped connections. It's just not worth the effort.

Yeah, this is my situation exactly. My entire extended family and most of my friends are on Verizon. Calling my sole iphone-toting friend is like shouting through a ton of gravel at a tree stump; you're just hoarse and silly looking by the end and nothing has been accomplished.

Yes I pay ~50% more than the AT&T plan. It's worth it.
posted by Skorgu at 3:00 PM on December 13, 2009


My AT&T cell phone which is not an iphone or any other smart-ish phone sometimes doesn't work pretty much all day on Sunday. Like I get a signal, from my home. Except Sundays. AT&T doesn't even try to make sense of this. Occasionally I'll get a dropped call when I'm talking to someone and the running joke is "Oh sorry about that, it's like we're all on a party line in Vermont. Someone else must have had to make a phone call"
posted by jessamyn at 3:03 PM on December 13, 2009


It's hard to fathom how the biggest carrier in the US is CDMA. That's mind-boggling.

It seems to be working for them. I've had a Verizon phone for a couple of years now, 0 dropped calls.
posted by MikeMc at 3:27 PM on December 13, 2009


I think it's worth noting as a datapoint that phone to phone on the same network can be a HUGE difference. I have an older Nokia 6680 which is a crappy Symbian smartphone that is overall meh, however it can pick up a signal most anywhere, and gets clearer better calls with less dropped (almost never drops calls) than my girlfriend's newer LG. This is mostly in Western MA and CT. I'd bet that the iPhone problems are a combination of network and phone both. I'd also be willing to bet that Verizon would be having the same issues if they had the iPhone with that many new datahungry customers. Not letting AT&T off the hook or anything, I just wish all the companies would put more money into improving their networks, and less into advertising them.
posted by haveanicesummer at 3:30 PM on December 13, 2009


I assume that CDMA is a quiet form of protectionism, Verizon and Spring likely got big government subsidies for supporting a good American company, after GSM had already been establish as an international standard.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:32 PM on December 13, 2009


I'm not so sure about their smartphones but Verizon are also albout the maximum crippleware and generally making the experience as shitty as possible when it comes to their-midlevel phones. If they had iPhones they would be all about finding ways of fucking them up.
posted by Artw at 3:42 PM on December 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


hippybear wrote: "and it is the customer experience which reigns supreme"

at&t/cingular has historically done poorly in self-reporting surveys because for whatever reason the department that decides which handsets to carry has..lacking standards for reception quality. So at&t ends up doing most of their handset sales volume in low end Samsung, LG, and Motorola phones which are almost all varying degrees of 'piss poor' in reception.

Why they insist on selling broken phones, I'll never figure out, but until very recently at&t's network was incredibly reliable for me using the Nokias I've had over the years (I tend to choose ones with good radios above other features). At one of my previous residences, the signal strength was a little low, but perfectly usable on my phone.

Half my friends would be enjoying no service because they couldn't be bothered to buy a decent phone. Same places, different phones, it's like night and day. What you're really seeing is the difference in policy regarding the performance of phones the respective carriers choose to sell.

My point being that a consumer survey is pretty much useless to the end of figuring out which network is better in the places they both cover.
posted by wierdo at 3:42 PM on December 13, 2009


I'm not so sure about their smartphones but Verizon are also albout the maximum crippleware..

This part. I'm not a big hacker or 'fuck the man' dude, but when I got a Razr three years ago and found out I couldn't take a picture, attach a USB cable and upload it to my PC I was outraged. Maybe they thought it was their phone? That's when I downloaded new firmware and jailbroke the phone.
posted by fixedgear at 3:52 PM on December 13, 2009


Yeah, Verizon Razrs are the worst. IIRC you have to go through all kinds of ridiculous shit to use it as an MP3 player, and yeah, they try to make you use some crapy pay service if you wnat to try and get your photos out of the thing.
posted by Artw at 4:01 PM on December 13, 2009


Artw: "I'm not so sure about their smartphones but Verizon are also albout the maximum crippleware and generally making the experience as shitty as possible when it comes to their-midlevel phones. If they had iPhones they would be all about finding ways of fucking them up."

But they have the Droid which has zero Verizon crap on it and runs very well on their network. I haven't lost a call yet.
posted by octothorpe at 4:21 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


That'd be the Verizon phone to get then. That or something very low end like my first Verizon phone, which was basically too dumb for them to fuck it up. That level of dumbness can be hard to find these days though.
posted by Artw at 4:23 PM on December 13, 2009


I am pretty sick of being in the top 5% of bandwidth users and getting blamed for the fact that rogers cable oversells in every neighborhood with more than 1 computer in it.
posted by tehloki at 4:30 PM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is what's important about the iPhone and the Droid. For once, real computer companies are making phones. Not cell phone carriers who decide stupid things like "you must upload your photos via our service". Not traditional cell phone manufacturers like Nokia who make all their money by selling phones via carriers and let them dictate stupid things like "you must buy your music via our partner service".

Apple and Google are independent computer companies. They're finally making real, flexible, user friendly consumer devices. And they're largely carrier neutral. AT&T and Verizon are seeing their future where all they get to do is charge commodity rates for their bandwidth. And they're not happy about it. But it's great for consumers. Also, this is why net neutrality matters so much.
posted by Nelson at 4:30 PM on December 13, 2009 [10 favorites]


Apple and Google are independent computer companies. They're finally making real, flexible, user friendly consumer devices. And they're largely carrier neutral. AT&T and Verizon are seeing their future where all they get to do is charge commodity rates for their bandwidth. And they're not happy about it. But it's great for consumers. Also, this is why net neutrality matters so much.

This part repeated for emphasis. It starts with 'you must use our service...' and ends with my local electic utility doesn't tell me what to plug into their network. Lke that.
posted by fixedgear at 4:48 PM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


AT&T's network in San Francisco is absurdly bad. In numerous parts of the city, you can't even get basic GSM reception outside, with a clear view of the sky. Here in the Mission, for example, in order to use AT&T in my top floor apartment, I have to step out onto the balcony and stand in one particular spot. This is not for 3-G, this is just simple voice calls.

Once you hit the road north of San Francisco, things only get worse. Pretty soon, only the very large towns have any voice coverage at all. Smaller towns, and the spaces between them, are dead air for AT&T.

The problem with this article is that Stross starts out with some fairly objective facts: consumer reports, etc rate AT&T's network the worst--and then he tries to undermine these relatively objective facts with vaguely sourced anecdotal evidence blaming the iphone. Sorry, Stross, but AT&T's GSM (not 3-G, and not iphone-only) coverage in California is just plain awful, and everybody here knows it. AT&T's coverage maps are lies.

I'm so glad you posted this article, @taken, so I could rant a little bit about it. Also, all hail Verizon's excellent California network, and the Droid.
posted by jackbrown at 4:50 PM on December 13, 2009


Is this something I'd have to be a technology addict to care about?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:57 PM on December 13, 2009


It's all caused by the density of fanboys. The reality distortion field fucks with EM radiation.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 5:02 PM on December 13, 2009


My Nokia 6102 NEVER dropped calls in San Diego for years. My iPhone averages prolly one drop for every 20 minutes of conversation (still in San Diego).

I say it's the phone.
posted by Lukenlogs at 5:42 PM on December 13, 2009


It doesn't? It certainly sucks well enough on O2 in the UK.
Yeah, this is O2's fault as well. Not as bad as AT&T, but it's still nothing like as good as Orange. I switched as soon as O2 started unlocking iPhones, and it's really rock-solid -- as good as I ever had it on any other device previously.

(Not to say that the iPhone didn't have some weird phone design, especially in its first incarnation which put the antenna at the bottom underneath your hand. I get poor signal inside my faraday cage of a bedroom and had to hold the phone in a weird way just to keep the call strength up. They've since moved the antenna to the top, where it always should've been)
posted by bonaldi at 7:05 PM on December 13, 2009


Yeah, SF area service sucks. I say this after three days of unexplainable and unacceptable "No Service" at all in Pacifica (just south of SF), with absolutely no way to contact them about it (611 does not work, and their website just kicks back errors every time I try to chat or email 'support'). It's infuriating and I'm so, so over it.
posted by iamkimiam at 7:08 PM on December 13, 2009


The i-phone is a remarkable device. However, I have owned cell phones for 15 years, and in terms of its actual sound and connection quality, it is the poorest phone I have owned. I have recently owned other phones on the a.t.t. network that were considerably better, so hard to imagine that the failing of the phone is JUST a.t.t.s fault. I accept the quality of the phone only because it is a pretty nifty device in other respects. If I was just using it for the phone feature, I would scrap it in a New York minute.
posted by jcworth at 7:40 PM on December 13, 2009


This is what's important about the iPhone and the Droid. For once, real computer companies are making phones....Apple and Google are independent computer companies.

It's a nice sentiment, except that the Droid is made by Motorola. It may be running Google's mobile OS, but it's not made by Google, not in the slightest.
posted by hippybear at 7:45 PM on December 13, 2009


Love my palm pre. Love it.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:14 PM on December 13, 2009


Bullshit.
posted by mike3k at 8:31 PM on December 13, 2009


I love my company supplied Blackberry 8900. I haven't paid for wireless service in the better part of a decade.

/nyah
posted by Burhanistan at 8:33 PM on December 13, 2009


So is the iPod Touch worth considering as an option (with another manufacturer's cell for the voice part of data)?
posted by five fresh fish at 8:48 PM on December 13, 2009


wierdo: "unlimited data from at&t for other phones is only $15 a month. I'm currently on a 2004ish data plan that gives me unlimited data, 1500 sms and 200 mms for $20 a month."


This is untrue. I was force-upgraded to a PDA plan, which is priced as the iPhone plan, at $30 / mo + fees.

Lower-priced ATT plans exclude "smartphones," a term left undefined in the contractural language, but which as it was explained to me means either phones such as the Treo, Blackberry and iPhone OR (and I think this is the actual measurement stick) phones which consume enough data bandwidth that they stick out when a BOFH team does a BW consumption review.
posted by mwhybark at 9:08 PM on December 13, 2009


FWIW I should note that the speculative news about Google releasing a non-subsidized Android handset at about the same time that Uncle Steve is likely to give AT&T the finger is very exciting.

I'm skeptical that the life-of-service month-to-month costs per handset will drop in the short term from the $100+ that they are at currently.

But the possibility of permanently wrecking the subsidized life-of-contract highway robbery is good news from a consumer perspective.
posted by mwhybark at 9:16 PM on December 13, 2009


fff, the Touch is Wifi only, so you have to be somewhere there's a signal. Anecdotally, you can use services such as Skype, but I'm not a primary source and could be totally off base. Finally, I *think* the Touch is sufficiently HW distinct from the iPhone that it might not run all iPhone apps. Again, not a primary source, so I could be completely off base.
posted by mwhybark at 9:19 PM on December 13, 2009


If the CEOs of Apple and Google are smart, they'll have decided to compete with one another.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:15 PM on December 13, 2009


mwhybark wrote: "wierdo: "unlimited data from at&t for other phones is only $15 a month. I'm currently on a 2004ish data plan that gives me unlimited data, 1500 sms and 200 mms for $20 a month."


This is untrue. I was force-upgraded to a PDA plan, which is priced as the iPhone plan, at $30 / mo + fees.

Lower-priced ATT plans exclude "smartphones," a term left undefined in the contractural language, but which as it was explained to me means either phones such as the Treo, Blackberry and iPhone OR (and I think this is the actual measurement stick) phones which consume enough data bandwidth that they stick out when a BOFH team does a BW consumption review.
"

You were asked to change plans or were forced? As far as I've seen evidence of, they've only ever forced iPhone users to a particular data plan, although they do often require the PDA plan for rebate eligibility on PDAs.

This is yet another reason why I don't buy phones from at&t. My terms and conditions have no language forbidding me from using my particular plan in any device I choose, although I understand this has changed in the past several years.

The $15 plan is available to anybody who currently has their SIM in anything other than a smartphone or laptop at&t sells. Put it in an unlocked Nokia E63 (or whatever) and give them a call. ;)
posted by wierdo at 11:22 PM on December 13, 2009


the iPod Touch will run nearly all of the App Store offerings, except for those which specifically use the GPS for location. There's some kind of (bordering on creepy) triangulation with available WiFi which the Touch will do to find a location for you, but if the programs are written specifically for GPS, they will not work.

(And we won't get into the 1st Gen Touchs and their inability to update to the 3.0 operating system, which shuts them out of nearly all the new App releases)
posted by hippybear at 11:53 PM on December 13, 2009


So true, Fake Steve Jobs. So true. "But capitalism is competition! Each striving to be better than the next!" Except no. What we really get is a race to the bottom. Who can be the cheapest, not the best.

Now bend over, grab your ankles, and accept the Invisible Hand.
posted by Eideteker at 5:11 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I call bullshit. Jailbroken iPhone on t-mobile in manhattan. I've had AT&T. I'd void my warrantee ten times over if I could. It's like night and day. T-mobile actually provides service that works.

I also had the tethering hack on AT&T. Their edge routers are horribly misconfigured to never drop a packet, which lead to their cache filling, and ping times inexplicably going from 50 milliseconds to over 5 seconds and back to 50 milliseconds, over and over as the cache empties, then fills. Zero dropped packets. 5 second ping to the first hop!!!!!!!

I know my experience is anecdotal, but I have lived with the same phone, in the same locations on two different networks. Sorry guys, ain't the phone.
posted by Freen at 6:29 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


All my coworkers have iPhones, and they all pretty severe problems. Like 20-30 dropped calls a week. This is at First & Mission in downtown San Francisco. To my mind, it doesn't matter whether this is caused by a signal issue, a capacity issue, or whatever else. If the iPhone doesn't work in the SF Financial District, then you might as well throw it away.

(I have a cheap-ass verizon phone that hasn't dropped a single call in the last couple years.)
posted by ryanrs at 7:14 AM on December 14, 2009


I not only call bullshit on that article but am going to prove it: the very same iphone you have so much grief with on AT&T works perfectly fine on T-Mobile in germany. I have had a 32GB 3GS for about seven months now and haven't had a single dropped call and quite astonishing surf speeds on 3G.

T-Mobile germany has its faults: the former monopolist here significantly drops download speeds after you've used 300mb/month (the latency grows to close to two seconds before the server even responds) and they are expensive as hell. I pay roughly 60 euros each month for just 120 minutes and 340 text messages on my iphone plan, which obviously also includes data. I'm also locked into their plan for 24 months. obviously this could be a lot cheaper but I do find it worth noting that the phone itself works and gives me absolutely no problems once attached to a decent network.
posted by krautland at 7:22 AM on December 14, 2009


addendum: I think it's less than seven months. I got it the day it came out, whenever that was.
posted by krautland at 7:24 AM on December 14, 2009


It's hard to fathom how the biggest carrier in the US is CDMA.

From a technical engineering standpoint, CDMA is a much better technology than GSM. GSM is so crude, it uses the same amount of RF bandwidth whether you're talking or not. Cell size maximums hurt you in rural areas, hard limits on simultaneous conversations hurt in urban areas, nasty, peaky power envelopes interfere with your stereo, etc. GSM is truly crap.
posted by ryanrs at 7:36 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


CDMA is a much better technology than GSM.
that statement is much too broad. consumers want quick and reliable voice and data access no matter where they are. they don't care if one is more complicated and less elegant on their vendors side. all they care is if it works and how fast it is.
posted by krautland at 7:56 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


the Droid is made by Motorola

Not the important part.

(But since hippybear already complicated my sunny statement about Apple and Google bringing Freedom to the masses, I should say the iPhone is not particularly free. We've replaced being forced to buy music and software from Nokia/Verizon with being forced to buy music and software from Apple. But Apple's doing a better job of selling music and software, and it's not terribly difficult to put your own music on the thing, so it's an improvement.)
posted by Nelson at 8:29 AM on December 14, 2009


Leaked images and details of Google's new phone, the Nexus 1. Google's ignoring the carriers completely on this one and selling it directly, unlocked, to consumers. It's GSM so it'll only work on ATT or T-Mobile here in the US. No word on the price.
posted by octothorpe at 8:41 AM on December 14, 2009


Google's ignoring the carriers completely on this one and selling it directly, unlocked, to consumers. It's GSM so it'll only work on ATT or T-Mobile here in the US. No word on the price.

There's a checkmark in the "not evil" category of Google's dichotomy. This is how it should be. You pick the device you like at a market driven price point, and it should work with any damn network you choose. All wireless carriers should also be required by law to be accessible by any unlocked device.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:05 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I envy all y'all who have the iPhone no matter how crappy the service, but am now considering the Droid -- that is, if I ever get out from under my draconian contract with T-Mobile that won't let me escape from my discontinued crappy Samsung puke-green shitphone for another 17 months. Maybe by that time the Droid will be supergalactic and be able to pour me instant lattes along with all of its other features.
posted by blucevalo at 9:40 AM on December 14, 2009


Or maybe I'll just buy the Google phone.
posted by blucevalo at 9:41 AM on December 14, 2009


I also had the tethering hack on AT&T. Their edge routers are horribly misconfigured to never drop a packet, which lead to their cache filling, and ping times inexplicably going from 50 milliseconds to over 5 seconds and back to 50 milliseconds, over and over as the cache empties, then fills. Zero dropped packets. 5 second ping to the first hop!!!!!!!

This lines up with (admittedly anecdotal) stories i've heard from people who have worked at Motorola, ATT, etc. in the cell-phone tower division. One friend's internship project was to add compression to the large (several gigabyte) configuration files that are periodically uploaded to towers. The fact that such low-hanging fruit existed only a few year ago should be frightening to anyone with half a clue.

I was told Motorola in particular is filled to the brim with incompetent fools. Plus, they are not competitive employers compared to anything out west, so I don't see this as a temporary problem. Surely AT&T has similar problems, but amplified by their oligopoly.
posted by mezamashii at 10:29 AM on December 14, 2009


>> CDMA is a much better technology than GSM.

> that statement is much too broad. consumers want quick and reliable voice and data access no matter where they are. they don't care if one is more complicated and less elegant on their vendors side. all they care is if it works and how fast it is.

Do you care about dropped calls and interference with your stereo? I'm not talking about provider-side complexity, I'm talking about real-world performance. AT&T's under-provisioning would be a lot less annoying if it merely reduced audio quality instead of dropping your calls.

Most Americans don't give a fuck if their phone works in Europe. I'm sure the converse is true as well.
posted by ryanrs at 11:01 AM on December 14, 2009


Their edge routers are horribly misconfigured to never drop a packet, which lead to their cache filling

Sounds like they're treating their IP packets like SMS messages. This behavior probably helps HTTP and definitely breaks VOIP. Hell, it might be intentional.
posted by ryanrs at 11:27 AM on December 14, 2009


The results place AT&T’s data network not just on top, but well ahead of everyone else. “AT&T’s data throughput is 40 to 50 percent higher than the competition, including Verizon,” Mr. Carter said. AT&T is a client and Verizon is not, he added.
I stopped reading that NYT garbage right there. Verizon network FTW. We're Mac users at home and stuck in BlackBerry purgatory until we're due for discounted new phone pricing, at which point Droid looks pretty good, or maybe we'll get lucky and iPhones will open up a little. Here's hoping.
posted by ZakDaddy at 11:56 AM on December 14, 2009


Do you care about dropped calls and interference with your stereo? I'm not talking about provider-side complexity, I'm talking about real-world performance. AT&T's under-provisioning would be a lot less annoying if it merely reduced audio quality instead of dropping your calls.

1. I am on a 3G network and I don't have any dropped calls at all. as in never. with an iphone. so yes, I do care about it and obviously 3G isn't the inferior product you make it out to be or else I would be very angry with my provider, too. I am talking about real-world performance, btw.

2. stereo interference? I haven't had a stereo since 1998 but if you mean those beeping sounds they used to make sometimes just before a call would come in I'd put that somewhere below "I care about what you had for lunch" on my list, which I don't. I care about my network being fast and reliable and it is. AT&T seems to be the issue, not 3G.

Most Americans don't give a fuck if their phone works in Europe. I'm sure the converse is true as well.
most americans might care to know whether AT&T or 3G or their iphone is the problem. I was providing a hint. are you suggesting I shouldn't have made it because I'm not a 'merican? that's pretty dumb.
posted by krautland at 1:17 PM on December 14, 2009


"weighing that against a ton of customer-experience research from one of the US's most important public-interest nonprofits, one that takes serious pains to avoid even the appearance of impropriety."

There is a serious selection/confirmation bias in CR's research. The most glaring example being the older reporting for cars (pre grouping badge engineered models into one basket) that had identical cars besides the badge get statistically different reliability ratings. People either have different expectation biases or the end users have an effect on the results.
posted by Mitheral at 1:33 PM on December 14, 2009


stereo interference? I haven't had a stereo since 1998 but if you mean those beeping sounds they used to make sometimes just before a call would come in I'd put that somewhere below "I care about what you had for lunch" on my list, which I don't.

Actually, that's an interesting point: My iPhone 3Gs interferes with speakers like no phone I've had before. I have to put it far, far away from my desk speakers and even my bedside radio alarm or it is chirruping away constantly.
posted by bonaldi at 3:45 PM on December 14, 2009


I am on a 3G network and I don't have any dropped calls at all.

My point was that CDMA networks degrade more gracefully when under-provisioned. Perhaps your provider just has a better network than AT&T (most providers do).


stereo interference? I haven't had a stereo since 1998

By stereo, I meant any audio playback device. If you don't listen to music, then I suppose you won't care.


I was providing a hint. are you suggesting I shouldn't have made it because I'm not a 'merican?

You said "consumers want quick and reliable voice and data access no matter where they are." I assumed you were talking about global roaming.
posted by ryanrs at 7:54 PM on December 14, 2009


My iPhone 3Gs interferes with speakers like no phone I've had before.

Question: is it on a 3G network when it does that?

I'm curious because the iPhone's 3G radio uses UMTS, which is a form of CDMA. But I wouldn't be surprised if GSM 3G networks still use older non-CDMA transmissions for low speed housekeeping packets sent while idle.
posted by ryanrs at 8:01 PM on December 14, 2009


Ah, yeah, the reception's rotten in here so it'll be on very 2G (not even an Edge data connection). In fact, won't that also mean it'll have whacked the radio up to full power as well? No wonder it's chirruping.
posted by bonaldi at 8:07 PM on December 14, 2009


I assumed you were talking about global roaming.

I am certain that the World Showcase at Epcot provides global roaming. There are at least eleven countries there, and I distinctly remember both France, Italy, and the UK having pavilions there. That's about as international as you could want!
posted by five fresh fish at 11:28 PM on December 14, 2009


By stereo, I meant any audio playback device. If you don't listen to music, then I suppose you won't care.
I listen to music all the time, thankyouverymuch. I do not have this problem. at all. did you purchase your equipment at wal-mart?

I assumed you were talking about global roaming.
oic. no, wasn't. making intl. calls from us cell phones is a pain anyway.
posted by krautland at 11:49 PM on December 14, 2009


Wow. I and all my fellow Pacificans, Montarans, and neighbors are now FIVE days without AT&T service. And no end or update in sight. They just don't give a shit about their customers, obvs. Wonder if it'll be back by the time this thread closes?
posted by iamkimiam at 8:29 AM on December 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow. I and all my fellow Pacificans, Montarans, and neighbors are now FIVE days without AT&T service.

Wait---you're saying that it's been almost a week with no service? Not even basic GSM calling? That's crazy.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:33 AM on December 15, 2009


(not "you're crazy"--I just think that a week without mobile phone services is like some post-apocalypse stuff)
posted by Burhanistan at 8:34 AM on December 15, 2009


I know! It's totally outrageous. I've been driving to SF to check my voicemail. Now I'm just sick of it and going to LA for a few days. You should see some of the forums about this. Customers are fucking LIVID PISSED and AT&T has done absolutely nothing...no email, text, voicemail, or announcement of any kind. Well, to be fair, some guy on Twitter claimed he was from AT&T, asked what the problem was, but he hasn't tweeted back. Ugh. Is that supposed to be filed under Customer Service?
posted by iamkimiam at 8:52 AM on December 15, 2009


Wow iamkimiam, that outage is ridiculous. More info on dslreports, Pacifica Riptide, Wired, Twitter. There really needs to be some consumer protection for cell phone contracts, AT&T is downright abusive.

Also, don't Apple execs live in Pacifica, Montara, San Francisco? Don't they have some inside pull?
posted by Nelson at 9:39 AM on December 15, 2009


no email, text, voicemail, or announcement of any kind

If their network is down because of some failure, how are they going to do that? buy radio/tv ad time?
posted by ArgentCorvid at 11:52 AM on December 15, 2009


If their network is down because of some failure, how are they going to do that? buy radio/tv ad time?
ever heard of press release?
posted by krautland at 1:08 PM on December 15, 2009


blucevalo wrote: "I envy all y'all who have the iPhone no matter how crappy the service, but am now considering the Droid -- that is, if I ever get out from under my draconian contract with T-Mobile that won't let me escape from my discontinued crappy Samsung puke-green shitphone for another 17 months. Maybe by that time the Droid will be supergalactic and be able to pour me instant lattes along with all of its other features."

You can buy a new phone at any time you like. It's not like you can only use T-Mobile phones. You can use any GSM phone you want. If you want 3G on T-Mobile, your choices are significantly more limited, however.
posted by wierdo at 7:42 PM on December 15, 2009


ryanrs wrote: "My point was that CDMA networks degrade more gracefully when under-provisioned."

That depends on your definition of "more gracefully."

If by that you mean "drops users farthest from the cell," you are quite correct that CDMA-based air interfaces degrade more gracefully than TDMA-based air interfaces.

Cell breathing isn't very graceful if you're the one in fringe coverage.

(FWIW, both TDMA/IS-136, which is essentially dead now, and 2G GSM both support dynamic switching to half rate codecs which doubles the capacity of the cell site in congested conditions..voice quality does suffer some since there's less room for error correction, not to mention the lower voice bitrate, though)

So really it's got nothing to do with grace, they're just different.
posted by wierdo at 7:49 PM on December 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just wanted to update my earlier post...

After 6 days of no service, nor any official statement, email, text, or phone call from AT&T, service is finally restored in the area. I also spent an hour and a half on the phone with AT&T, negotiating a reimbursement. This included 3 dropped calls.

In an SF Gate article, AT&T claimed that they couldn't get to the place where vandals had snipped some cables because rains had made the hill too muddy to transverse with their truck. Rains had stopped in the area several days before the outage even began. Many people in the area had offered to travel up the hill with their Jeeps and/or cars, which was easily doable, but this was obviously not a viable solution for AT&T.
posted by iamkimiam at 3:25 PM on December 19, 2009


It seems reasonable that environmental delays prevented repair. Or at least it seems unreasonable that AT&T would forgo all that revenue and gain all the bad press if a 4X4 was a viable solution.
posted by Mitheral at 3:35 PM on December 19, 2009


Also, the first person I spoke with had claimed that the reason there was a delay in service was because AT&T was unaware of the problem for several days, since nobody had called. Ironically, I was able to use my AT&T home internet service to connect to Google, where I did a search on their website and other places, immediately following the first signs of an outage. However, I was unable to send an email to them about the problem, due to a repeated error with their contact form.

The thought of AT&T's network being better than our conventional wisdom worries me.
posted by iamkimiam at 3:36 PM on December 19, 2009


iamkimiam wrote: "Also, the first person I spoke with had claimed that the reason there was a delay in service was because AT&T was unaware of the problem for several days, since nobody had called. Ironically, I was able to use my AT&T home internet service to connect to Google, where I did a search on their website and other places, immediately following the first signs of an outage. However, I was unable to send an email to them about the problem, due to a repeated error with their contact form.

The thought of AT&T's network being better than our conventional wisdom worries me.
"

That reminds me of a problem I once I had with them way back in 2003 (as Cingular) when they didn't have native coverage in Arizona. I was out there on business and found that their AT&T Wireless roaming was completely hosed. (Something to do with authentication, I believe)

I was unable to call them using my cell, and their toll free number only accepted calls from areas where they sold service. If you tried to call them from a market they didn't serve, the call would go to an intercept telling you that they were very sorry, but they didn't serve your area. Calls from my workmates' AT&T Wireless phones resulted in the same thing.

Back then, the contact form on their website got responses measuring in days, not minutes or hours, so I was pretty much hosed until I finally got the bright idea to look up the number to a store and call it from a landline. The IVR used by the stores at the time had "Customer Service" option which sent you to the call center, and thankfully bypassed the ANI check, after which I was able to get a very helpful representative to take an incredibly detailed report and create a trouble ticket. Once I was able to report the issue it was resolved quite quickly. It was sad I was apparently the first person to report the issue, though, since it had been out for a day by the time I got through to them.

Before the SBC and BellSouth halves of Cingular were fully integrated, there was all sorts of fun like that. Heck, if you called 611 when you were in a former BellSouth market they couldn't help you with your former SBC account without transferring you to a different call center, which they usually got wrong. Getting support for broken text messaging was a real adventure between the general unsupport for texting at the time and the completely different networks.

The GSM networks worked much better together, despite still being completely separate billing systems. (I think they've finally consolidated everything into Telegence now)
posted by wierdo at 11:38 PM on December 26, 2009


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