AT&T CTO Talks Network Fixer-Upper Plans

iPhone Black: 3G Form Factor Rumor Roundup: Countdown to WWDC

Last week Apple and Infineon were getting all the heat for shoddy 3G performance. Now AT&T is getting its share of the blame with a dizzying array of combinations. First it was Wired's fairly damning survey and the Swedish antenna tests that pointed further fingers at the network, and now Gizmodo head-honcho Brian Lam has had the chance to chat with AT&T CTO John Donovan:

I asked Donovan if caution was the overriding strategy behind waiting to match Sprint's initial 3G rollout, he replied, "I'd like to say we're deliberate. " He added that initially meeting the voice quality and data rates of Sprint's 3G network would have been both technically and financially impossible, despite the customer benefit. (One only needs to look at Sprint's financial weakness now to appreciate the wisdom of his point.) He also pointed out that by waiting, they got to leapfrog the limitations of Sprint's EVDO networks, referring to the extended data rates their network will eventually run at, at a better value. "The most astute thing you can do is be as late as possible and as fast as possible. Because it's going to cost you more if you do it too early, and if you do it too late, you don't get the features you want."

Well bully for AT&T, but where exactly does that leave frustrated customers with dodgy 3G reception? According to Donovan, they have a multipart plan to make sure AT&T really, truly, eventually delivers on the "more bars in more places" promise.

Lam likes having them on the record, so they can be held accountable. We think customers would prefer having them simply get the job done, so that dead zones, dropped calls, downgraded connections, and basically everything else that's currently broken about AT&T's 3G network is fixed and fast.

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

AT&T CTO Talks Network Fixer-Upper Plans


All I know is when I bought my iPhone on launch day, I was working in the suburbs of Boston, and my 3G reception was flawless for 2 months. I came home to NYC a week ago, and have had no data access at all for probably half the time I've tried to use it, and really slow speeds the rest of the time. Things seem better after upgrading to 2.0.2, but I blame this squarely on AT&T. How is it Apple's fault if a phone works great in one region and not at all in another? And iPhone users aren't the only ones complaining about data being down and/or slow in NYC this week. Sounds to me like AT&T is having network problems and that's why some people are furious about 3G speeds on the iPhone and others are perfectly happy.

As I've mentioned before, they're just going to lose potential customers to T-Mobile, which has more 3G experience and a cheaper unlimited 3G data plan, and the Android phone. It has taken them forever to respond to their 3G network issues, their response is too bland and not at all a direct response to iPhone 3G networking issues, and the content of their PR campaign indicates that they cannot address the issues quickly. Maybe if you complain and threaten to drop the service, they'll give you a credit. But otherwise, this kind of crap is exactly why I'll pay an ETF and switch if this doesn't stabilize very soon. Even if I take a loss, I'd rather take the loss than give even more money to ATT.